Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Young v. UPS, it is well-known that pregnancy discrimination is prohibited by federal anti-discrimination laws because it constitutes discrimination on the basis of sex. Additionally, under federal law, employers must make accommodations for pregnant women if they make accommodations for other similarly situated non-pregnant employees and there is no legitimate non-discriminatory reason for refusing the accommodation of the pregnant employee.
More recently, Connecticut’s General Assembly amended the Connecticut Fair Employment Practice Act to expressly require Connecticut employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees. The statute previously prohibited employers from: 1) terminating an employee on the basis of pregnancy, 2) refusing an employee a reasonable leave of absence for a disability resulting from pregnancy, 3) denying a pregnant employee disability compensation or other disability benefits, or 4) refusing to reinstate the employee to her original job or to an equivalent position. Public Act 17-118, An Act Concerning Pregnant Women in the Workplace, amended the statute to clarify that it is now a violation of state law to:
- Limit, segregate or classify a pregnant employee in a way that would deprive her of employment opportunities during her pregnancy;
- Discriminate against an employee or job seeker on the basis of her pregnancy in the terms or conditions of her employment;
- Fail or refuse to make a reasonable accommodation for an employee or job seeker due to her pregnancy, unless the employer can demonstrate that such accommodation would impose an undue hardship on such employer;
- Deny employment opportunities to an employee or job seeker if such denial is due to the employee’s request for a reasonable accommodation due to her pregnancy;
- Force a pregnant employee or job seeker to accept a reasonable accommodation if such employee or person seeking employment (i) does not have a known limitation related to her pregnancy, or (ii) does not require a reasonable accommodation to perform the essential duties related to her employment;
- Require a pregnant employee to take a leave of absence if a reasonable accommodation can be provided in lieu of such leave; and
- Retaliate against a pregnant employee in the terms, conditions or privileges of her employment based upon such employee’s request for a reasonable accommodation.
Notably, “reasonable accommodation” was not previously defined by the CFEPA; however, the recent amendment clarifies that a reasonable accommodation includes, but is not limited to, “being permitted 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 hazardous work, time off to recover from childbirth or break time and appropriate facilities for expressing breast milk.”