Illinois Proposes New Pregnancy Discrimination Rules

Proposed requirements may amend the Illinois Pregnancy Fairness Law, which took effect January 1, 2015.

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The Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) proposed new pregnancy discrimination and accommodation rules that will add additional requirements and clarifications to the Illinois Pregnancy Fairness Law. Specifically, the proposed amendments affect the areas of:

  • Reasonable accommodation
  • Fringe benefits
  • Medical documentation requests

The IDHR expects the final rules will be issued by mid-October 2015.

Pregnancy-Related Conditions and Required Reasonable Accommodations in Illinois

Pregnancy-related conditions may be temporary and do not need to meet the definition of disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or be a serious health condition under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Pregnancy-related conditions could include:

  • Gestational diabetes
  • Preeclampsia
  • Post-partum depression
  • Miscarriage
  • Hypothyroidism

The proposed rules require Illinois employers to engage in the interactive process with current employees and applicants with conditions related to their pregnancy and accommodate pregnancy-related conditions as if they were disabilities currently accommodated under the ADA.

Some examples of reasonable accommodations are:

  • Modified work schedule
  • Modified job structure or job assignment
  • Temporary transfer to a different position
  • More frequent or longer breaks
  • Assistance with manual labor
  • Light duty
  • Making existing facilities and worksites readily accessible
  • Time off to recover from conditions related to childbirth

However, an employer doesn’t need to offer an accommodation if the accommodation would result in ‘undue hardship’ to the employer.

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What is Reasonable Accommodation?

Reasonable accommodation as defined by the U.S. Department of Justice is “any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions.”

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Fringe Benefits

The proposed rules require that employers continue to provide an employee with their fringe benefits, including health insurance, throughout the accommodation period. This includes employees who are placed on modified work schedules or are working part time.

Request for Medical Documentation

Under the proposed rules, employers are allowed to request medical documentation from a healthcare provider if an employee requests accommodation for a pregnancy-related condition. However, employers may only request the information if the:

  • Employer normally requests medical documentation for disability-related accommodation.
  • Requested accommodation would impact general operations of the business.
  • Requested information is not ‘known’ or ‘readily apparent’ to the employer.

For more information on reasonable accommodation and pregnancy, click here.

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