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EMPLOYMENT AND LABOR NEWS
Mickey Busca, Editor

New CT Law for Pregnant Employees & Applicants

September, 2017

NEW CONNECTICUT LAW STRENGTHENS PROTECTIONS

FOR PREGNANT EMPLOYEES

Effective October 1, 2017, Connecticut’s anti-discrimination statute, Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act, (“CFEPA”), is modified to enhance existing anti-discrimination protections for pregnant employees more expansive than federal law (Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Americans with Disabilities Act).

It defines “pregnancy” as pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions, including lactation.

It requires employers (the state, municipalities and any private employer with three or more employees) to provide a reasonable workplace accommodation for a pregnant employee or applicant, unless the employer demonstrates that the accommodation would be an “undue hardship.”  “Undue hardship” is defined as an action requiring significant difficulty or expense when considering the accommodation’s nature and cost, the employer’s overall financial resources, the employer’s size and facilities, and the effect on the employer’s operations.

The new law does not change existing protections for pregnant employees.  These include making it unlawful for an employer to:

  • Terminate a woman’s employment because of her pregnancy;
  • Refuse to grant a pregnant employee a reasonable leave of absence for disability as a result of her pregnancy;
  • Deny an employee disabled as a result of pregnancy any compensation to which she is entitled as a result of the accumulation of disability or leave benefits accrued pursuant to employer plans;
  • Fail or refuse to reinstate the employee to her original job or to an equivalent position with equivalent pay and accumulated seniority, retirement, fringe benefits and other service credits upon her signifying her intent to return, unless in the case of a private employer, the employer’s circumstances have so changed as to make it impossible or unreasonable to do so.

Under the new law, “reasonable accommodations” include:

  • Being allowed to sit while working;
  • More frequent or longer breaks;
  • Periodic rest;
  • Assistance with manual labor;
  • Job restructuring;
  • Light duty assignments;
  • Modified work schedules;
  • Temporary transfers to less strenuous or less hazardous work;
  • Time off to recover from childbirth, or
  • Break time and appropriate facilities for expressing breast milk.

(By law, an employer must make reasonable efforts to provide a private room for an employee to express breast milk or breastfeed, Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 31-40w).

The new law also prohibits employers from:

  • Limiting, segregating, or classifying an employee in a way that would deprive her of employment opportunities due to her pregnancy;
  • Discriminating against an employee or job applicant on the basis of her pregnancy in the terms or conditions of employment;
  • Denying employment opportunities to a pregnant employee or applicant because she requested a reasonable accommodation;
  • Forcing a pregnant employee or applicant to accept a reasonable accommodation if she does not (a) have a known pregnancy-related limitation or (b) require a reasonable accommodation to perform her job’s essential duties;
  • Requiring a pregnant employee to take a leave of absence instead of providing a reasonable accommodation; and
  • Retaliating against a pregnant employee based on her request for a reasonable accommodation.

Employee Notification

The new law requires employers to provide employees with written notice of their right to be free from discrimination in relation to pregnancy, childbirth and related conditions, including the right to a reasonable accommodation.  Notice must be given to (1) new employees when they start work; (2) existing employees within 120 days of the bill’s effective date; and (3) any employee who notifies her employer of her pregnancy, within 10 days of her notification.

An employer may comply with the notice requirements by displaying a poster in a conspicuous place, accessible to employees, at the workplace with the required information in both English and Spanish.

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