What You Need to Know about Working While Pregnant

On June 27, 2019, the Kentucky Pregnant Workers Act (“the Act”) took effect for the purpose of protecting all pregnant workers and ensuring they have equal access to safe working conditions. The Act, which amended the Kentucky Civil Rights Act, protects employees by extending existing protections against retaliation and employment discrimination to cover discrimination based on an employee’s pregnancy, childbirth, and other related medical conditions. Other related medical conditions include, but are not limited to, lactation or the need to express breast milk for a nursing child. What Are Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnancy? The most significant part of the Act is that it requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees who are limited due to pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions. An employer must provide these accommodations unless it would impose an undue hardship on the employer. The Act mandates this requirement on employers with 15 or more employees in the State of Kentucky, in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year.[1] The Act provided examples of what reasonable accommodations may include, such as: more frequent or longer breaks; time off to recover from childbirth; acquisition or modification of equipment; appropriate seating; temporary transfer to a less strenuous or less hazardous position; job restructuring; light duty; modified work schedule; and private space, other than a restroom, for expressing breast milk. However, there are exceptions to this rule for employers. The first exception to the Act is that it does not cover employers with fewer than 15 employees. Therefore, only employers with 15 or more employees are required to provide accommodations under the Act. Exceptions to Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnancy Additionally, there is a second exception for employers if they can prove that offering an accommodation imposes an “undue hardship” on the business. Factors that Courts consider when addressing whether an undue hardship exists include the duration of the requested accommodation and whether the employer has a policy or has provided similar accommodations to other employees. If the employer has provided a similar accommodation or if they have a policy stating that they do provide such accommodation, then a rebuttable presumption that the accommodation is reasonable and not unduly burdensome is created. In addition to the mandate to provide reasonable accommodations unless it creates an undue hardship, the statute requires employers to engage their employees in a timely, good faith, and interactive process to determine the best accommodation for the pregnant or lactating employee. Lastly, the Act bars employers from forcing an employee to take leave time if another reasonable accommodation can be made which allows the employee to continue to work. The mandate to provide reasonable accommodations is just one aspect of the Act. Employers must post a notice of the new law and provide written notice of an employee’s rights under the Act. These rights include all employee’s rights to be free from discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or other related medical conditions and their right to be reasonably accommodated for such limitations. If you have more specific questions or concerns, contact an attorney for further advice on your potential claim. Our attorneys are always available to hear your story and answer any other questions you may have regarding what we know to be this very difficult time. Call our office at 859-781-9100 to speak with an attorney or to schedule an appointment. [1] Although the reasonable accommodation requirement applies to employers with a minimum of 15 employees, the Act did not change the definition of “employer” under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. Therefore, employers with at least 8 employees must still abide by the Act’s anti-discrimination and retaliation provisions.