Florida is the latest state in the U.S. to amend existing workplace anti-discrimination laws to include pregnant women as a protected class of workers.[wc_divider style=”dotted” line=”single” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=””]
Florida amended Chapter 760* of its Civil Rights statutes to include pregnant workers as a class protected from workplace discrimination.
The statute prohibits employers from terminating, refusing to hire, or discriminate against pregnant workers and other protected classes by paying them less or limiting benefits and other employment opportunities. For example, if you interview a qualified job applicant who happens to be pregnant, you cannot fail to hire her based on her pregnancy.
*Note: The online version of the statute linked above was not updated at the time of this article; however, the amendment is enacted, and the required posting contains the pregnancy revision.
Required Florida Discrimination Posting
Florida revised is Florida Law Prohibits Discrimination posting, which is required for all employers to display. The poster is provided by the Florida Commission on Human Relations in both English and in Spanish on one 8.5″x11″ sheet.
The posting now includes pregnancy as a condition protected from workplace discrimination. The Commission also updated its contact information on the posting.
Employers must display the revised posting immediately. Fortunately, GovDocs provides the revised Florida Discrimination posting as part of the Florida Compliance Posting Package, which includes postings required for all Florida employers:
- Unemployment Insurance
- Workers’ Compensation
- Child Labor Law
- Minimum Wage
Pregnant workers in Rhode Island are now protected from workplace discrimination in hiring, termination, job promotion, and benefits.[wc_divider style=”dotted” line=”single” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=””]
The State of Rhode Island expanded the protections granted by its Fair Employment Practices Act to include employees and job applicants with “conditions related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions”.
The new posting informs employees and applicants of their right to request a reasonable accommodation for conditions related to pregnancy, childbirth and expressing breast milk.
Covered employers must “fill in the blanks” with the names of staff members who would process requests for reasonable accommodation and complaints of discrimination.
The new law is effective immediately.
WHAT IS THE RHODE ISLAND FAIR EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES ACT?
The Rhode Island Fair Employment Practices Act protects workers and job applicants at companies of four or more employees from discrimination in hiring, promotion, salary, terms and conditions, and termination based on:
- Sex (including pregnancy status and sexual harassment)
- Ancestral origin
- Age (40+)
- Sexual orientation or gender identity/ expression
RHODE ISLAND PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION POSTING REQUIREMENTS
The Rhode Island Pregnancy Discrimination notice is required for all employers with four or more employees covered by the Rhode Island Fair Employment Practices Act. The posting must be:
- Displayed in a conspicuous location in each place of business and accessible to employees.
- Provided to new employees at onboarding.
- All employees by October 2015.
- Pregnant employees must be provided the notice no later than 10 days after notifying employers of pregnancy.
The new Rhode Island Pregnancy Discrimination notice is available as part of the GovDocs Rhode Island Labor Law Posting Compliance Package. Subscribers to GovDocs Labor Law News receive an additional 20% off their purchases when using coupon code BLOG20. The posting package includes all postings required by the State of Rhode Island for employers:
- Workers’ Compensation Act
- Notice To All Employees (Unemployment & Disability Insurance)
- State Minimum Wage Poster
- Parental & Family Medical Leave Act
- Ignoring This Poster Can Be Hazardous To Your Health (Right To Know)
- Sexual Harassment In Employment
- Whistleblowers’ Protection Act
- Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Related Conditions Discrimination
An employee who provided customer assistance to healthcare patients and pharmacists soon found herself in need of an advocate for her own disability case.[wc_divider style=”dotted” line=”single” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=””]
A Reimbursement Case Advocate, Meron Debru, informed her employer (The Lash Group Inc.) of her pregnancy and requested short-term disability leave for the birth of her child. Her doctor was concerned that Debru was suffering from postpartum depression and did not release her to return to work, and for nearly five months after her short-term disability ended, she was unable to work because of the postpartum depression, which is considered a disability related to childbirth and is protected by the Americans with Disability Act (ADA).
The company filled Debru’s position about three months into her leave and sent her a letter of termination, stating that she had exhausted her FMLA leave and because she had taken more than six months’ leave, which was not true. Debru protested to the human resources manager, and the company sent a new letter stating that she had exhausted her allowable FMLA leave, but that she could apply for other open positions with the company.
She was released to return to work by her physician and was forced to compete for vacant positions. After applying for three positions for which she was qualified, the company still had not hired her, and they once again formally terminated her.
The EEOC took on Debru’s case (EEOC v. The Lash Group) and won. They proved that the company had refused to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee with postpartum depression and instead fired her because of her disability.
(To be clear, the ADA does not classify pregnancy as a disability under the ADA, but any pregnancy-related disabilities, such as postpartum depression, are considered disabilities for which employers must provide reasonable accommodation).[wc_box color=”primary” text_align=”left”]
Lessons Learned from EEOC v. The Lash Group
- Employers must provide reasonable accommodation to women who experience pregnancy-related disabilities.
- Reasonable accommodation can include the extension of unpaid leave or transferring the employee to a vacant position for which she is qualified.
- Forcing an employee to try to find a new position within the company on her own does not meet an employer’s obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation.
Case Outcomes from EEOC v. The Lash Group
Monetary fine: $75,000
- Provide reasonable accommodation going forward.
- Revise its family and medical leave and short-term disability benefits policies and procedures to address reasonable accommodations.
- Notify employees that they may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation (including unpaid leave) and how to request such an accommodation.
- Provide training on the ADA and reasonable accommodations to human resources personnel, leave coordinators and managers.
- Report to the EEOC on how it handles future reasonable accommodation requests.
- Post a notice regarding the resolution of this lawsuit.
What is Postpartum Depression?
The symptoms of postpartum depression are more intense than the “baby blues” that many new mothers experience. Approximately 15% of all new mothers experience a more intense sort of “baby blues” known as postpartum depression whose symptoms may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Intense irritability and anger
- Overwhelming fatigue
- Loss of interest in sex
- Lack of joy in life
- Feelings of shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Severe mood swings
- Difficulty bonding with the baby
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Thoughts of harming self or baby
Untreated, postpartum depression may last for many months or longer.[wc_divider style=”dashed” line=”single” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=””]