One of the most significant aspects of the recently passed Women’s Economic Security Act is the requirement that employers must provide accommodations to pregnant employees.  See H.F. 2536.  This aspect of the new law will be codified at Minn. Stat. § 181.9414.  Here’s what employers need to know about the new pregnancy accommodation rule:
When Does the Pregnancy Accommodation Requirement Take Effect?  The pregnancy accommodation requirements took effect on May 12, 2014.
Which Employers Are Subject to the Rule?  Any employer that “employs 21 or more employees at at least one site” is subject to the rule.
What Accommodations May Be Required?  The law says that an employer must provide “reasonable accommodations to an employee for health conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth if she so requests, with the advice of her licensed health care provider or certified doula . . . .”  A potential reasonable accommodation “may include, but is not limited to, temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position, seating, frequent restroom breaks, and limits to heavy lifting.”
The Undue Hardship Exception:  Employers do not need to provide a requested accommodation if “the employer demonstrates that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business.”  However, there are limits to the undue hardship exception.  Specifically, the law provides that “[a] pregnant employee shall not be required to obtain the advice of her licensed health care provider or certified doula, nor may an employer claim undue hardship for the following accommodations:  (1) more frequent restroom, food, and water breaks; (2) seating; and (3) limits on lifting over 20 pounds.”
The Interactive Process:  In order to determine what accommodations may be needed, the law requires the employee and the employer to engage in the interactive process.
Are Any Accommodations Not Required?  Yes – in addition to the undue hardship exception, the law says that “an employer shall not be required to create a new or additional position in order to accommodate an employee pursuant to this section, and shall not be required to discharge any employee, transfer any other employee with greater seniority, or promote any employee.”
Retaliation is Prohibited:  The law prohibits retaliation, stating that an employer “shall not retaliate against an employee for requesting or obtaining accommodation under this section.”
Can An Employer Require an Employee to Take Leave or Accept an Accommodation?  No – the law prohibits an employer from requiring “an employee to take leave or accept an accommodation.”
What About Other Laws?  The law provides that it does not “affect any other provision of law relating to sex discrimination or pregnancy, or in any way to diminish the coverage of pregnancy, childbirth, or health conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth under any other provisions of any other law.”  As a result, employers will also need to consider any obligations they may have under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, Title VII, the Minnesota Human Rights Act, or related laws.