• Pregnancy Accommodation Now an Obligation Under the Illinois Human Rights Act
  • February 2, 2015 | Authors: Norma Manjarrez; Tracey L. Truesdale
  • Law Firm: Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. - Chicago Office
  • The new pregnancy discrimination and accommodation amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) provide expectant mothers specific workplace protections during their pregnancy and childbirth. Most notably, the amendments provide expectant mothers with the right to request reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, and medical or other common conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. As a result, if a request for a reasonable accommodation is made by a pregnant applicant or employee, Illinois employers are now legally obligated to provide such accommodations including, but not limited to, more frequent or longer bathroom breaks, light duty, breaks for increased water intake and periodic rest, periods of leave even when the employee might not otherwise be qualified under the Family and Medical Leave Act, and time off to recover from childbirth. However, this does not mean that employers must accommodate all requests. The amendments do not require accommodations that result in undue hardship on the ordinary operation of the employer’s business.

    Additionally, the amendments prohibit employers from taking adverse employment action against otherwise qualified applicants or employees if the decision is based on the employer’s need to make such reasonable accommodations. Employers are also prohibited from retaliating against an employee who requests an accommodation or otherwise exercises her rights under the IHRA. The amendments also provide job reinstatement rights as well as require handbook language and notice posting with information about employee rights with respect to pregnancy accommodation.

    On December 15, 2014, the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) released the notice that employers will be required to post advising employees of their rights under the new pregnancy accommodation amendments. The IDHR website includes both English and Spanish notices in addition to English and Spanish versions of a Fact Sheet on Public Act 98-1050. Copies of the notices and fact sheet may be downloaded at http://www2.illinois.gov/dhr/Publications/Pages/Pregnancy&under;Rights&under;Notice&under;Requirement.aspx. The law requires the notices to be posted by the time the amendments take effect on January 1, 2015. Employers must also include a statement about employee rights under the new amendments in their employee handbooks.

    The new amendments apply to Illinois employers of all sizes. For more information on this topic, see our blog post “New Pregnancy Discrimination and Accommodation Amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act.”