District of Columbia Mayor, Vincent C. Gray has approved the Protecting Pregnant Workers Fairness Act of 2014. The measure, which was unanimously adopted by the D.C. Council by voice vote on September 23, would require employers to provide reasonable workplace accommodations for workers whose ability to perform job functions are limited by pregnancy, childbirth, a related medical condition, or breastfeeding. This bill was introduced after an article was published about a pregnant worker in D.C. who was forced off the job after she wasn’t allowed to carry a bottle of water or take extra bathroom breaks due to her pregnancy.
The law will require employers to engage in a timely and interactive process with an employee requesting, or otherwise needing a reasonable accommodation due to pregnancy. It may be important to note the wording “or otherwise needing” as this may indicate that the supervisor should be aware that the pregnant employee is struggling to meet the expectations of her position and therefore begin the interactive process without a request from the employee. A provider certification may be requested in order to support the accommodation.
The law advises that the employer may not do any of the following:
- Refuse to make reasonable accommodations to the known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, related medical conditions, or breastfeeding for an employee, unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship;
- Take an adverse action against an employee who requests or uses a reasonable accommodation in regard to the employee’s conditions or privileges of employment, including failing to reinstate the employee to the employee’s original job or to an equivalent position with equivalent pay, accumulated seniority and retirement, benefits, and other applicable service credits;
- Deny employment opportunities to an employee, or a job applicant, if the denial is based on the need of the employer to make reasonable accommodations to the known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, related medical conditions, or breastfeeding;
- Require an employee affected by pregnancy, childbirth, related medical conditions, or breastfeeding to accept an accommodation that the employee chooses not to accept if the employee does not have a known limitation related to pregnancy, childbirth, related medical conditions, or breastfeeding or the accommodation is not necessary for the employee to perform her duties; or
- Require an employee to take leave if a reasonable accommodation can be provided.
The law will require that an employer post and maintain in a conspicuous place a notice of rights in both English and Spanish and provide written notice of an employee’s right to a needed reasonable accommodation related to pregnancy, childbirth, related medical conditions, or breastfeeding pursuant to this act to:
- New employees at the commencement of employment
- Existing employees within 120 days after the effective date of the law
- An employee who notifies the employer of her pregnancy, or other condition covered by this act, within 10 days of the notification
The Department of Employment Services (DOES) will enforce the law. An employee injured by a violation of the law may maintain an administrative action or a civil action.
The Protecting Pregnant Workers Fairness Act of 2014 will take effect following a 30-day period of congressional review and publication in the District of Columbia Register.
If you have any questions, please let us know.