New Philadelphia Ordinance Requires Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnancy, Childbirth

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City of Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter recently signed legislation amending the City’s Fair Practices Ordinance to prohibit pregnancy-related discrimination and require employers to provide reasonable workplace accommodations for employees who have needs related to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. The ordinance extends protections beyond those in the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. It became effective January 20, 2014.

The ordinance extends the prohibition on sex-based discrimination to include “pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition” within its definition of “sex.” Similar to the newly enacted New Jersey law requiring accommodation of pregnancy-related conditions, the ordinance also goes further and makes it an unlawful discriminatory employment practice not to provide reasonable accommodations to an employee who requests such accommodations to allow her to perform the essential functions of her position.

Like the New Jersey law, it also allows for exceptions to the mandate if the accommodations will cause an undue hardship to the employer. Accommodations may include restroom breaks, periodic rest for those who stand for long periods of time, assistance with manual labor, leave for a period of disability arising from childbirth, reassignment to a vacant position, and job restructuring.

Factors considered in assessing an employer’s claim of undue hardship include:

  • The nature and cost of the accommodations
  • The overall financial resources of the employer’s facility or facilities
  • The size of the employer, specifically the number of employees and the number, type, and location of its facilities
  • The type of operations, including the structure of the workforce

Employers must post a notice of employees’ rights no later than 90 days after the effective date of the law.

Aggrieved employees have the same remedies as those for other unlawful employment practices, including injunctive or other equitable relief, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and reasonable attorneys’ fees.