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Connecticut Expands Protections for Pregnant Employees and Job Applicants

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy recently signed into law "An Act Concerning Pregnant Women in the Workplace" (the "Act") as an amendment to the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act. Effective October 1, 2017, the Act expands protections for pregnant employees and job applicants, including a reasonable accommodation requirement.

Discriminatory Practices

While federal and state human rights laws already prohibit discrimination on account of pregnancy, the Act goes somewhat beyond the existing protections, such as expressly including prohibitions on terminating a woman's employment because of her pregnancy and/or refusing to grant an employee a reasonable leave of absence for disability resulting from pregnancy, which is defined to include conditions related to pregnancy.  The Act makes it an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer to: (i) limit, segregate, or classify an employee in a way that would deprive her of employment opportunities due to her pregnancy; and (ii) otherwise discriminate against an employee or applicant on the basis of her pregnancy within the terms or conditions of employment.

Reasonable Accommodations

Under the new law, Connecticut employers may not fail or refuse to make a reasonable accommodation for an employee or applicant due to her pregnancy, unless the employer can demonstrate the accommodation would impose an undue hardship. The Act also sets forth a non-exhaustive list of reasonable accommodations which employers must consider, including sitting while working; more frequent or longer breaks; periodic rest; assistance with manual labor; job restructuring; light duty assignments; modified work schedules; temporary transfers to less strenuous or hazardous work; time off to recover from childbirth; and break time and appropriate facilities for expressing breast milk. See also, Conn. Gen. Stat. Section 31-40w (establishes the right of workers to breastfeed or pump breast milk during breaks, as well as requires employers to provide an appropriate space for the same).

Additionally, Connecticut employers are prohibited from denying employment opportunities or retaliating against an employee based on a request for a reasonable pregnancy-related accommodation. The Act further prohibits employers from requiring an employee to take a leave of absence due to her pregnancy if an alternative reasonable accommodation is available that would allow the employee to continue working.

Notice Requirements

Employers must provide written notice of the right to be free from discrimination in relation to pregnancy, childbirth and related conditions, including the right to reasonable accommodations. Connecticut employers must provide such notice to:

  • existing employees within 120 days after October 1, 2017;

  • new employees at the commencement of employment; and

  • any employee who notifies the employer of her pregnancy within ten days of receiving such notification.

The Act's notice requirement can be satisfied by posting a copy of the required information in a "conspicuous" area of the work place.

What Steps Should Be Taken Now

Consequently, at a minimum, Connecticut employers need to review, and accordingly, revise existing policies to include appropriate language regarding these rights.  Employers should also consider training to educate management and human resources professionals as to the Act's implications. Finally, employers need to ensure timely notification to employees of their rights, and include accommodation requests pursuant to the Act within any existing process by which employees request reasonable accommodations unrelated to pregnancy. 

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About this Author

Mary Gambardella Litigation lawyer Wiggin Dana

Mary brings decades of experience in helping clients comply with ever-changing labor laws and regulations, as well as in managing employment challenges such as sensitive terminations, sexual harassment, reductions in workforce, discrimination claims, and severance agreements. She is a proactive resource for clients seeking her counsel on a variety of human resource issues before they become a costly crisis, as well as a fierce advocate when crises arise.

Mary is Chair of the firm’s Labor, Employment and Benefits Department and regularly represents employers in...

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Lawrence Peikes Employment litigation lawyer Wiggin Dana

Larry represents the interests of management in all aspects of the employer-employee relationship and is particularly experienced in litigation defense. He has advocated for employers in a wide range of employment cases—before arbitrators, mediators, and government agencies as well as in state and federal courts. In a field where most attorneys rarely appear before a judge, let alone a jury, Larry has successfully tried cases on both the federal and state levels. Despite his extensive courtroom experience, Larry is first and foremost dedicated to finding the best, most pragmatic business solutions to personnel relations challenges, with an eye toward avoiding litigation.

Larry's practice encompasses the full range of employment law issues, including workplace discrimination, sexual and other forms of harassment, wrongful discharge, wage-and-hour compliance, non-competition agreements, trade secret protection, and contract negotiations. Larry represents employers in administrative proceedings before such agencies as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities; the New York State Division of Human Rights and its New York City counterpart; the National Labor Relations Board; the U.S., Connecticut, and New York Departments of Labor; and other administrative bodies charged to enforce federal and state labor laws.

When litigation proves unavoidable, Larry and his team of seasoned employment lawyers have an enviable record of success, disposing of lawsuits on motions, at trial, and by way of advantageous settlements.