STATE LEGISLATURE EXPANDS PROTECTIONS UNDER PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION LAW

pregnant

The legislature passed a bill expanding protections for pregnant employees. The bill, called “An Act Concerning Pregnant Women in the Workplace,” awaits Governor Malloy’s signature.

State law already makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against a woman because of her pregnancy, and much of the existing law will remain under the bill. For example, Section 46a-60 of the Connecticut General Statutes prohibits an employer from (1) terminating a woman’s employment because of her pregnancy; (2) refusing to grant a reasonable leave of absence for a disability resulting from her pregnancy; (3) and failing or refusing to reinstate a woman to her original position or to an equivalent position with equivalent pay and accumulated seniority, retirement, fringe benefits, and other service credits. Those provisions remain unchanged under the bill.

The bill would eliminate existing provisions related to temporary transfers for pregnant employees, and instead expands the existing law to make the following actions, among others, discriminatory practices: (1) limiting, segregating or classifying the employee in a way that would deprive her of employment opportunities due to her pregnancy; (2) discriminating against an employee or person seeking employment on the basis of her pregnancy; (3) failing or refusing to make a reasonable accommodation for an employee or person seeking employment due to her pregnancy, unless the employer can demonstrate that such accommodation would impose an undue hardship; (4) forcing an employee or person seeking employment affected by pregnancy to accept a reasonable accommodation if such employee or person seeking employment does not have a known limitation related to her pregnancy, or does not require a reasonable accommodation; and (5) retaliating against an employee for requesting a reasonable accommodation.

The bill also defines the terms “reasonable accommodation,” and includes a non-exhaustive list of accommodations (e.g., being allowed to sit while working, more frequent or longer breaks), and “undue hardship,” in which an employer must show that a pregnant employee’s requested accommodation would cause significant difficulty or expense in light of certain enumerated factors in order to justify not providing that accommodation. What makes an accommodation reasonable (or unreasonable) and what constitutes an “undue hardship” have been the subjects of much litigation. The bill further creates a broad definition of “pregnancy” by including not only the pregnancy and childbirth, but also any “related condition, including, but not limited to, lactation.”

Only time will tell if predictions that these expanded protections will cause an increase in pregnancy discrimination claims prove true. If Governor Malloy signs the bill, which he is expected to do, it becomes law on October 1, 2017.

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