Last week, the Illinois House of Representatives approved a bill to strengthen protections for pregnant employees in the workplace. HB 8, introduced by Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago) and supported by Governor Pat Quinn, would amend the Illinois Human Rights Act to require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees for conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth. The bill would cover all working women, including full-time, part-time, and probationary employees.
Should the bill become law, examples of the types of reasonable accommodations employers may be required to provide include allowing more frequent bathroom breaks or water breaks, providing seating or assistance with manual labor, or modifying an employee’s job duties or work schedules. As under the Americans with Disabilities Act, however, employers would not be required to provide accommodations to pregnant employees that would impose an undue hardship on the business.
The Illinois bill comes on the heels of similar legislation passed in Maryland, California and New York, and represents yet another sign, as we have recently observed, that discrimination claims by pregnant employees may be on the rise. In light of this trend, employers are advised to evaluate their policies regarding accommodating pregnant employees so as to reduce the risk of facing a challenge to such policies under either federal law (i.e., the Pregnancy Discrimination Act) or state law, should the Senate approve HB 8.