An Expectant Mother Cannot Be Denied Alcohol in Bars and Restaurants In New York City Based Upon Her Pregnancy

Bars and restaurants located in New York City may no longer refuse to serve alcoholic beverages to an expectant mother based solely on the fact that she is pregnant, and those that continue to refuse to do so are in violation of the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”), New York City’s anti-discrimination law. Indeed, earlier this month, the New York City Commission on Human Rights (the “Commission”), which is the city agency charged with enforcing the NYCHRL, issued guidelines regarding the NYCHRL’s protections as they apply to discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Within those guidelines were various examples of violations of the NYCHRL’S prohibitions on pregnancy discrimination, including the following examples which are particularly relevant to New York City based bars and restaurants:

  • A restaurant policy prohibits staff from serving pregnant individuals alcohol; and
  • A bouncer denies a pregnant individual entrance to a bar based on the belief that pregnant individuals should not be going to bars and/or drinking alcohol.

In other words, the guidelines advise that a bar or restaurant will be engaging in discriminatory conduct in violation of the NYCHRL if it refuses to serve a pregnant woman an alcoholic beverage, or denies a pregnant women entrance to its establishment, if the sole reason therefore is that the woman is pregnant. In issuing these guidelines, the Commission commented that “judgments and stereotypes about how pregnant individuals should behave, their physical capabilities, and what is or is not healthy for a fetus are pervasive in our society and cannot be used as pretext for unlawful discriminatory decisions in employment, housing, and public accommodations.”

Restaurants and bars located across the river in New Jersey should be aware that although no specific guidelines have been issued in New Jersey expressly stating, like the New York City guidelines, that the refusal to serve alcohol to a pregnant woman is a violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”), New Jersey’s anti-discrimination law, the broad language of the LAD could be interpreted to prohibit this form of discrimination as well. Indeed, the LAD expressly prohibits the denial of services based upon numerous protected categories, including pregnancy.

Accordingly, bar and restaurant owners should review their policies and procedures to confirm that they do not have any policies in place prohibiting the service of alcoholic beverage to pregnant women, or prohibiting the entry of pregnant women to their establishments.

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