New Illinois Law Will Require Pregnancy Accommodations
Recently, there have been many optimistic changes in support of women’s equality in Illinois. In addition to signing an amendment to the Equal Pay Act that will centralize workplace discrimination investigations, Governor Quinn also signed into law a bill that will expand accommodations for expecting and new mothers.
Effective January 1, 2015, the amendment to the Illinois Human Rights Act will act in conjunction with existing law under the Family and Medical Leave Act and federal regulations such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act to improve accommodations for women during and after pregnancy. This new law will have optimistic insinuation on women in the office, their future children and their families.
The existing law under the Family and Medical Leave Act will permit up to 12 weeks of leave to qualified employees. Eligibility requirements include meeting a compulsory minimum of working hours (1,250 hours in 12 months prior to the request for leave) before being able to receive such time off. This requirement is absent in the new law, as a result allowing part-time and full-time employees the opportunity to enjoy time off, despite of how long they have been employed.
The latest law also leaves out language dictating a maximum amount of time a woman can be on leave. Though set for 12 weeks under the Family and Medical Leave Act, this act does not itemize an exact time period. If an employer has issues with the amount of time an employee is taking off, or merely wishes to question, the employer might demand a medical certification from the woman’s physician.
In addition to being able to request a medical certification, employers will have a high burden if they wish to limit the accommodation or time off for a pregnant employee. Employers must exhibit that providing the sensible accommodation for the employee would generate an “undue hardship” on the business. According to Illinois law, pertinent considerations in determining undue hardship on a business include nature of accommodation requested; cost of accommodation requested; financial resources available; size of the business; number, type, location of facilities; and type of occupation.
As per the law, it is the employer that bears the burden of demonstrating that giving the accommodation would be an undue hardship that is prohibitively exclusive or troublesome when considered in light of the above factors. This burden is in addition to a rebuttable assumption against employers that an accommodation is logical and will not cause undue hardship if the employer would need to give similar accommodations to similarly-situated employees.
The primary objective of this bill is to achieve gender equality in the workplace. The idea that women have to decide whether to be mothers or have a career is a thing of the past, and something that Illinois lawmakers are working hard to reform. The family dynamic is ever-changing as women of childbearing age make up an estimated 54% of the Illinois workplace, and lawmakers are trying to keep up with this movement. This bill, besides guaranteeing job security, flexibility, and comfort measures for new and expecting mothers might provide women with:
- Restrictions on physical labor and heavy lifting;
- Increased access to places to sit;
- Additional restroom breaks;
- Break space for breast feeding; and
- Time off after childbirth.
To start or grow one’s family is a significant, individual decision that does not affect one’s ability to do one’s job.