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Philadelphia ordinance requires reasonable accommodation for pregnancy and childbirth

On February 14, 2014 by Schnader in Labor and Employment

By Anne Kane

On January 20, 2014, Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter signed an amendment to the Philadelphia Code, expanding protection of pregnant employees in the workplace. The ordinance requires Philadelphia employers to make reasonable accommodations for female employees “affected by pregnancy” regardless of whether those employees are “disabled.” This means that an employee who is having a healthy pregnancy is entitled to accommodation to allow her to perform her job. Failing to provide such accommodation constitutes unlawful sex-based discrimination.

Reasonable accommodations may include:

  • Restroom breaks
  • Periodic rest for employees whose jobs require that they stand for extended periods
  • Assistance with manual labor
  • Leave for a period of disability arising from childbirth
  • Reassignment to a vacant position
  • Job restructuring

Employers must grant requested accommodations unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on their business. Factors relevant to whether an accommodation would cause an undue hardship include: (1) the nature and cost of the requested accommodations; (2) the overall financial resources of the employer’s facility or facilities; (3) the size of the employer, including the number of employees and facilities; and (4) the type of operations and workforce structure.

Other states and municipalities outside of Pennsylvania have passed similar laws expressly requiring employers to reasonably accommodate pregnant employees, including Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York City and Texas. However, these laws vary in their terms. For example, Maryland’s pregnancy discrimination law classifies pregnancy as a “disability” and requires employers to consider “all possible means of providing the reasonable accommodation,” including changing job duties completely. In New Jersey, a duty to accommodate only arises if the employee requests it on the advice of her physician. Employers should review carefully their practices and procedures to ensure compliance with the laws applicable to their facilities.

Employers must post a notice of employees’ rights under the Philadelphia ordinance on or before April 20, 2014 (90 days after the January 20, 2014 effective date).

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