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Published on Friday, May 19, 2017

New law creates requirements for accommodating an employee’s pregnancy

SB 5835 was signed into law on May 16 which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for an employee’s pregnancy and pregnancy-related health issues. With an effective date of July 7, 2017, the new law will apply to employers with fifteen employees or more.

The law provides that it is unfair practice for an employer to:

  • Take adverse action against a qualified employee who requests, declines, or uses an accommodation under the new law that affects the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment;
  • Deny employment opportunities if such denial is based on the employer’s need to make reasonable accommodation under the new law; and
  • Require an employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided for the employee's pregnancy.

The law defines “reasonable accommodations” as including:

  • Providing more frequent, longer, or flexible restroom breaks;
  • Modifying a no food or drink policy;
  • Job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position, or acquiring or modifying equipment, devices, or an employee's work station;
  • Providing seating or allowing the employee to sit more frequently if her job requires her to stand;
  • Providing for a temporary transfer to a less strenuous or less hazardous position;
  • Providing assistance with manual labor and limits on lifting;
  • Scheduling flexibility for prenatal visits; and
  • Any further pregnancy accommodation an employee may request, and to which an employer must give reasonable consideration in consultation with information provided on pregnancy accommodation by the Department of Labor & Industries or the attending health care provider of the employee.

The law also directs the state Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) to develop education materials explaining the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees under the new law.

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