This month, Connecticut enacted new protections for pregnant workers that address some of the more common abusive employment practices that women face when they are pregnant. The new protections include the following:
- Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers to enable them to work unless the accommodation would be an undue hardship;
- Employers cannot refuse to hire a pregnant worker because she needs a reasonable accommodation due to her pregnancy;
- Employers cannot force pregnant workers to accept accommodations unless the worker has a pregnancy related limitation or cannot perform the essential functions of her job without an accommodation;
- Employers cannot force pregnant employees to take a leave of absence if another form of reasonable accommodation would enable the employee to do her job; and
- Employers cannot retaliate against pregnant workers who request reasonable accommodations.
These protections address some common problems that pregnant workers face. For example, pregnant women have been denied the reasonable accommodation of more frequent restroom breaks. The reasonable accommodation provision of Connecticut’s new law should, in most cases, entitle pregnant women to the reasonable accommodation of more frequent restroom breaks. Some employers have forced pregnant women who work in physically demanding jobs to go on light duty or take medical leave before their pregnancies render them unable to perform the physically demanding aspects of their jobs. Connecticut’s new law should give these pregnant women the freedom to continue working if they are capable of doing so.
Maine has laws that also protect pregnant workers although Maine’s law is a bit different than Connecticut’s new law. The Maine Human Rights Act focuses on ensuring that pregnant workers are not treated less favorably than non-pregnant workers. Thus, for example, workers with pregnancy related disabilities or illnesses must receive the same treatment from employers as non-pregnant workers with disabilities or illnesses.
If you’re pregnant and your employer is not accommodating you, contact an experienced employment lawyer to learn more about your rights. The Maine Employee Rights Group has experience representing pregnant workers and, if you work in Maine, we may be able to help you.