On July 6, the Governor of Connecticut signed House Bill 6668, a law amending the Connecticut Pregnancy Disability law. The new law, effective October 1, 2017, provides additional protections for employees experiencing pregnancy, childbirth, or a related condition. The existing law requires an employer to grant a reasonable leave of absence for disabilities resulting from pregnancy. The amendment adds the requirement that an employer make a reasonable accommodation for an employee due to her pregnancy (i.e., not specific to pregnancy-related “disability”), unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship. The law adds definitions for a reasonable accommodation and an undue hardship. The law contains the following provisions:
- Employee Eligibility: All employees are eligible.
- Covered Employers: All employers with three or more employees are covered.
- Covered Relationships: The provisions apply only to employees who are experiencing pregnancy, childbirth, or a related condition. Spouses or other family members cannot take leave or receive an accommodation under the new law.
- Reasons for Accommodations, Including Leave or Time Off: Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to individuals experiencing pregnancy, childbirth, or a related condition.
- Types of Accommodations: Reasonable accommodations include, but are not limited to:
- Leave related accommodations
- time off to recover from childbirth; or
- modified work schedules.
- Non-leave related accommodations
- being permitted to sit while working;
- more frequent or longer breaks;
- periodic rest;
- assistance with manual labor;
- job restructuring;
- light duty assignments;
- temporary transfers to less strenuous or hazardous work; or
- break time and appropriate facilities for expressing breast milk.
- Length of Leave: Depending on the individual circumstances, leave may be a reasonable accommodation. The length of such a leave is for an unspecified duration, i.e., a reasonable amount of time given the employee’s condition.
- Form of Leave: The form of leave – continuous, reduced schedule, or intermittent – is not specified but likely all would be allowed when necessitated by the reason for leave and the circumstances.
- Job Protection and Benefits: An employer cannot:
- terminate a woman’s employment because of her pregnancy;
- refuse to grant to that employee a reasonable leave of absence for disability resulting from her pregnancy;
- deny that employee any compensation to which she is entitled as a result of the accumulation of disability or leave benefits accrued pursuant to plans maintained by the employer;
- fail or refuse to reinstate the employee to her original job or to an equivalent position with equivalent pay and accumulated seniority, retirement, fringe benefits, and other service credits upon her signifying her intent to return unless the employer’s circumstances have so changed as to make it impossible or unreasonable to do so; or
- limit, segregate, or classify the employee in a way that would deprive her of employment opportunities due to her pregnancy.
- Coordination with the CT FMLA or federal FMLA: The new law doesn’t prohibit leave as an accommodation running concurrently with the CT FMLA and/or federal FMLA. If the employee is eligible for, and the leave reason also qualifies under, the CT FMLA and/or federal FMLA, the absence should be counted toward CT FMLA and/or federal FMLA leave as well.
- Use of PTO: An employer cannot deny an employee any compensation to which she is entitled as a result of the accumulation of disability or leave benefits accrued under plans, including PTO, maintained by the employer.
- Employer Hardship: An undue hardship is an action requiring significant difficulty or expense when considered in light of factors such as:
- the nature and cost of the accommodation;
- the overall financial resources of the employer;
- the overall size of the employer’s business with respect to the number of employees, and the number, type, and location of its facilities; and
- the effect on expenses and resources or the impact otherwise of such accommodation upon the operation of the employer.
- Employee Notice: The law contains no timing requirements for the employee’s request for accommodation.
- Employer Notice: An employer must provide written notice of the right to be free from discrimination related to pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions, including the right to a reasonable accommodation to the known limitations related to pregnancy to:
- new employees at the commencement of employment;
- existing employees within 120 days after the effective date of this section; and
- any employee who notifies the employer of her pregnancy within ten days of such notification.
An employer may comply with the provisions of this section by displaying a poster containing the required information in both English and Spanish in a conspicuous place, accessible to employees, at the employer’s place of business. The Labor Commissioner may adopt regulations regarding additional posting and notice requirements for employers.
- Certification/Documentation: While the law is silent regarding whether an employer can require any form of documentation or certification from the employee, ReedGroup believes it is acceptable for an employer to require reasonable documentation to assess an accommodation request.
- Other Changes to Existing Law: The law removes the prior provisions regarding transfers that made it a discriminatory practice to:
- fail or refuse to make a reasonable effort to transfer a pregnant employee to any suitable temporary position that may be available when an employee gives written notice of her pregnancy and the employer or pregnant employee reasonably believes that continued employment in the position held by the pregnant employee may cause injury to the employee or fetus;
- fail or refuse to inform the pregnant employee that a transfer may be appealed under the provisions of this chapter; or
- fail or refuse to inform employees, by any reasonable means, that they must give written notice of their pregnancy to be eligible for transfer to a temporary position.
What Employers Must Do Now
Employers in Connecticut are responsible for compliance with this law upon its effective date, October 1, 2017. Employers should:
- Review and, if necessary, update any policies or handbooks to include pregnancy accommodation and leave as an accommodation;
- Train appropriate personnel (Human Resources, Benefits, etc.) on how to manage the accommodation requests; and
- Train supervisors and managers on Connecticut’s pregnancy accommodations so they can help spot covered absences or accommodation requests and enlist HR assistance in the interactive process.
What ReedGroup Is Doing
If you are using ReedGroup’s leave management services or software we are:
- Updating our leave management software platforms to encompass the new law;
- Training staff and updating scripts; and
- Incorporating Connecticut into our multistate Pregnancy Accommodation laws and updating the Connecticut Pregnancy Disability chapter in Leave Advisor™.