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Recent Development: Kentucky Becomes 25th State to Protect Pregnant Employees at Work

Posted May 10th, 2019 by in Employment Discrimination.

If you live in Kentucky and are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding, you should be aware of new protections that may apply to you and your employer. Last month Kentucky passed the Pregnant Workers Act with bipartisan support, making it the 25th state to pass specific legislation to protect pregnant employees. Federal laws already prohibit many employers from discriminating against workers based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, but Kentucky’s new law expands and clarifies these protections.

All too often, pregnant employees don’t bother asking for accommodations at work because they are afraid their employer may retaliate against them. Under Kentucky’s Pregnant Workers Act, most employers (specifically, employers with 15 or more employees within the state for at least 20 weeks of the year) are prohibited from making an employee take leave from work if another accommodation may be available. Additionally, these employers are required to engage in conversations with pregnant employees about potential accommodations needed for the employee to stay healthy and at work throughout their pregnancies.

Unless an accommodation would cause the employer “undue hardship,” the employer must offer the pregnant employee the necessary accommodations. The act clarifies that if an employer “has a policy to provide, would be required to provide, is currently providing, or has provided a similar accommodation to other classes of employees,” then it is presumed that the requested accommodation does not impose an undue hardship on the employer. In other words, it will be difficult for an employer to claim that a specific type of accommodation would cause an undue hardship if the same or similar accommodations have been made for non-pregnant employees.

This legislation also expands the definition of “reasonable accommodation” to include accommodations not enumerated specifically by federal law. Kentucky’s definition of “reasonable accommodation” for limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions includes, but is not limited to:

  • 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

Finally, Kentucky’s Pregnant Workers Act creates the first lactation accommodation requirement in the state. By defining “related medical condition” to include lactation or the need to express breast milk, the Act creates protections for employees once they come back to work. Under this new law, Kentucky employers will have to offer private space that is not a bathroom for pumping as well as reasonable accommodations so an employee can balance work and breastfeeding.

When Kentucky’s Pregnant Workers Act goes into effect on June 27, 2019, half of the United States will have heightened protections for pregnant workers. In addition to Kentucky, these states include Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia. Additionally, the District of Columbia, New York City, Philadelphia, Providence, and Central Falls, RI have passed local laws strengthening protections for pregnant workers.

If you think you have been the victim of pregnancy discrimination or discrimination related to breastfeeding, you should consult with an experienced employment discrimination attorney.

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