OLR Bill Analysis

sHB 6668

AN ACT CONCERNING PREGNANT WOMEN IN THE WORKPLACE.

SUMMARY

This bill expands the employment protections provided to pregnant women under the state's anti-discrimination law. It requires employers to provide a reasonable workplace accommodation for a pregnant employee or applicant, unless the employer demonstrates that the accommodation would be an undue hardship. The bill also prohibits employers from (1) limiting, segregating, or classifying an employee in a way that would deprive her of employment opportunities due to her pregnancy or (2) forcing a pregnant employee or applicant to accept a reasonable accommodation if she does not need one. It also eliminates certain employment protection provisions related to transfers to temporary positions for pregnant workers.

It defines “pregnancy” as pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions, including lactation.

Under the bill and existing law, an employer includes the state, municipalities, and any private employer with three or more employees (CGS 46a-51).

The bill also requires (1) employers to notify employees of their rights under the bill and (2) the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) to conduct ongoing public education efforts to inform employers and employees about their rights and responsibilities.

It also makes several conforming and technical changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2017

PROTECTIONS FOR PREGNANT EMPLOYEES AND APPLICANTS

Reasonable Accommodation

The bill prohibits employers from failing or refusing to make a reasonable accommodation for a pregnant employee or applicant, unless the employer demonstrates that the accommodation would be an undue hardship. The bill defines “undue hardship” as an action requiring significant difficulty or expense when considering the accommodation's nature and cost, the employer's overall financial resources, the employer's size and facilities, and the effect on the employer's operations.

Under the bill, “reasonable accommodations” include:

1. being allowed to sit while working,

2. more frequent or longer breaks,

3. periodic rest,

4. assistance with manual labor,

5. job restructuring,

6. light duty assignments,

7. modified work schedules,

8. temporary transfers to less strenuous or less hazardous work,

9. time off to recover from childbirth, or

10. break time and appropriate facilities for expressing breast milk.

(By law, an employer must make reasonable efforts to provide a private room for an employee to express breast milk or breastfeed (CGS 31-40w).)

Additional Protections

The bill also prohibits employers from:

1. limiting, segregating, or classifying an employee in a way that would deprive her of employment opportunities due to her pregnancy;

2. discriminating against an employee or job applicant on the basis of her pregnancy in the terms or conditions of employment;

3. denying employment opportunities to a pregnant employee or applicant because she requested a reasonable accommodation;

4. forcing a pregnant employee or applicant to accept a reasonable accommodation if she does not (a) have a known pregnancy-related limitation or (b) require a reasonable accommodation to perform her job's essential duties;

5. requiring a pregnant employee to take a leave of absence instead of providing a reasonable accommodation; and

6. retaliating against a pregnant employee based on her request for a reasonable accommodation.

CHANGES TO EXISTING EMPLOYMENT PROTECTIONS FOR PREGNANT WORKERS

The bill eliminates certain language in the law that provides employment protections for pregnant workers. It eliminates the language that makes it a discriminatory practice to fail or refuse to make a reasonable effort to transfer a pregnant employee to an available temporary position when the employee or employer reasonably believes that continued work in the existing position may cause injury to the employee or to her fetus. This applies when the employee gives the employer written notice of her pregnancy.

It also eliminates the language that requires an employer to inform employees that they (1) must give the employer notice of a pregnancy in order to be eligible for a temporary transfer and (2) have the right to appeal a transfer.

Existing law, unchanged by the bill, prohibits an employer from, among other things, (1) terminating a woman's employment because of her pregnancy, (2) refusing to grant the employee reasonable leave for disability resulting from the pregnancy, and (3) failing to reinstate the employee to her original job or an equivalent one upon her return (with some limitations).

EMPLOYEE NOTIFICATION

The bill requires employers to provide employees with written notice of their right to be free from discrimination in relation to pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions, including the right to a reasonable accommodation. Notice must be given to (1) new employees when they start work; (2) existing employees within 120 days of the bill's effective date; and (3) any employee who notifies her employer of her pregnancy, within 10 days of her notification.

An employer may comply with the notice requirements by displaying a poster in a conspicuous place, accessible to employees, at the workplace with the required information in both English and Spanish.

The bill authorizes the Department of Labor to adopt regulations to establish additional notice requirements.

PUBLIC EDUCATION

Finally, the bill requires CHRO to develop instruction courses and conduct ongoing public education efforts to inform employers, employees, employment agencies, and job seekers about their rights and responsibilities.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Labor and Public Employees Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

13

Nay

0

(03/09/2017)