We recently updated you about Vermont’s new Pregnancy Accommodation law. Three more states join the trend, as Washington State, Nevada, and Connecticut follow suit. On May 15, the Governor of Washington State signed Washington Senate Bill 5835, a pregnancy accommodation law that adds protection for pregnant employees experiencing pregnancy or pregnancy-related health conditions. On June 2, the Governor of Nevada signed Senate Bill 253, the “Nevada Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.” Connecticut is next in line with House Bill 6668, which has passed the house and the senate and awaits the Governor’s signature. All three provide additional protections for pregnant employees, even if their condition does not meet the requirements of a “disability.”
While these laws do not provide clear and defined leave of absence parameters, they require an employer to provide a reasonable accommodation, which may include a leave of absence, to employees experiencing pregnancy or related health conditions. Let’s consider some of the nuances of these laws:
|Washington State||Nevada||Connecticut* (not yet signed by Governor)|
|Effective date||July 23, 2017||October 1, 2017|
*June 2, 2017 for employer notice provisions
|October 1, 2017|
|Covered employer||Employers with 15 or more employees||Employers with 15 or more employees||Employers with 3 or more employees|
|Reason for accommodation||Pregnancy or a pregnancy-related health condition||Conditions relating to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition||Pregnancy, childbirth, or a related condition|
|Employer notice||None specified||Notice required 1) for new employees at start of employment; 2) within 10 days of employee’s notice to supervisor of pregnancy; and 3) posting||Notice required 1) for new employees at start of employment; 2) existing employees within 120 days of effective date of law; and 3) within 10 days of employee’s notice to employer of pregnancy. An employer can satisfy the notice requirements by posting.|
The laws contemplate that an employer will consider requests for accommodations on a case-by-case basis, using an interactive process to determine whether a requested accommodation is reasonable and would allow the employee to perform her job. The laws also contain provisions to exempt an employer from providing an accommodation if doing so would cause an undue hardship to the employer. However, the laws vary in the details of that exemption. For example, in Washington State, the undue hardship exception does not apply to providing more frequent, longer, or flexible restroom breaks; modifying a no food or drink policy; providing seating or allowing the employee to sit more frequently if her job requires her to stand; or to limits on lifting over 17 pounds. The Nevada law requires that an employer demonstrate that the accommodation is significantly difficult to provide or expensive, considering:
- 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 the available facilities; and
- the effect of the accommodation on the expenses and resources of the employer or the effect of the accommodation on the operations of the employer.
While Washington State’s and Nevada’s laws have been enacted, we await further information from Connecticut’s legislature to see whether the Governor will sign the bill. Stay tuned for the latest!
What Employers Must Do Now
Employers in the impacted states are responsible for compliance with these laws upon their effective dates. 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 the new pregnancy accommodation laws 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 system platforms to encompass the new laws, training staff and updating scripts, and incorporating the laws into our multistate Pregnancy Accommodation laws in Leave Advisor.