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.
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.
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.
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.