Louisiana Amends Pregnancy and Childbirth Nondiscrimination Law to Include Express Reasonable Accommodation Requirements

Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.
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Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

Louisiana’s nondiscrimination law protecting “pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions” in employment (La. R.S. 23:341–42) was recently amended primarily by including an express reasonable accommodation requirement and adding a definition section providing reasonable accommodation examples, La. R.S. 23:341.1. The pregnancy nondiscrimination statutes are part of the larger body of laws making up the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law at La. R.S. 23:301, et seq. The effective date for the act, No. 393, is August 1, 2021.

The law continues to cover only employers of more than 25 employees and direct that the covered conditions of “pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions are to be treated as any other temporary disability,” in the “Application” section, La. R.S. 23:341. That section’s amendment clarifies that “pregnancy-related conditions need not meet any definition of disability for the purposes of” the more specific mandates in R.S. La. R.S. 23:342. Thus, obligations owed to an employee or applicant with a covered condition do not depend on whether the individual is deemed “disabled” for any other purpose.

Amendments to La. R.S. 23:342, which continues to address more specific “unlawful employment practice[s],” include consolidating the leave provisions and adding an express reasonable accommodation requirement in new subsection B. Act 393 confirms that an employee may take up to six weeks for regular pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions, while employees “disabled” by the conditions may take up to four months of leave.

Act 393 adds an express reasonable accommodation requirement in new subsection B of La. R.S. 23:342, which is informed by examples included in the new definitions section, La. R.S. 23:341.1. Employers may not impose unnecessary accommodations or require leave if another accommodation can be provided. Undue hardship is a defense, and actions are listed that will not be required of employers, similar to exceptions under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), such as bumping and creating new positions.

The newly added “Definitions” section provides that the defined terms must be construed consistently with federal laws on disability and on pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions. “Reasonable accommodation” is defined by stating that it “may include but is not limited to” a list of actions. Those actions include

  • “[m]aking existing facilities used by [covered] employees readily accessible and usable”;
  • modifying schedules and “compensated” breaks or food/drink policies;
  • allowing more frequent sitting;
  • “providing assistance with manual labor” and lifting limits;
  • temporary transfers “to a less strenuous or hazardous vacant position, if qualified”;
  • job restructuring or light duty where available; or
  • “acquiring or modifying equipment necessary for performing essential job functions.”

“Related medical condition” includes lactation for up to one year postpartum.

A written notice to employees of the protections is also required, at La. R.S. 23:342(C). The notice must be provided “to new employees at the commencement of employment and to existing employees prior to December 1, 2021.” In addition, the written notice must be “conspicuously posted at an employer’s place of business in an area that is accessible to employees.”

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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