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Philadelphia Passes New Pregnancy Accommodation Law

Philadelphia employers now must provide “reasonable accommodation” to pregnant workers under a new amendment recently signed into law by Mayor Michael Nutter.

The law amends the Philadelphia “Fair Practices Ordinance: Protections against Unlawful Discrimination,” which makes illegal any employment practice that fails to “provide reasonable accommodations to an employee related to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition, provided (i) the employee requests such accommodations and (ii) such accommodations will not cause an undue hardship to the employer.”

What does this mean for Philadelphia employers, in practical terms? The amendment states that “reasonable accommodations” can include, but are not limited to, “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.”

In enacting the law, Philadelphia joins New York City, as well as Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey and Texas, which have all recently passed similar legislation. The laws greatly expand federal and state statutes prohibiting discrimination against pregnant women.

Employers may decline to provide the requested accommodations only if they can demonstrate that doing so would create “undue hardship,” the specifics of which are outlined below.

–          The nature and cost of the accommodations.

–          The overall financial resources of the employer’s facility or facilities involved in providing the accommodations, including the number of employees, the effect on expenses and resources, or other impact on the employer’s operations.

–          The employer’s overall financial resources, including its size with respect to the overall number of employees as well as the number, type and location of its facilities.

–          The employer’s type of operation, including the composition, structure and functions of its workforce, as well as the geographic location, administrative or fiscal relationship of the facility or facilities in question.

For additional information on how the new pregnancy accommodation laws could affect your business or for specifics on preventing an EEOC pregnancy discrimination lawsuit, contact Catherine M. (Kate) Harper. Ms. Harper has been a partner at Timoney Knox since 1997 and is also a member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly in the House of Representatives, representing eastern Montgomery County. She has a general practice, but focuses on land use (particularly municipal and zoning law), real estate and civil litigation in Bucks and Montgomery Counties.

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