The recently enacted “Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Workers Act” requires Maryland employers to provide reasonable accommodations to women suffering from pregnancy-related disabilities. The Act, which took effect October 1, applies to all employers with at least 15 employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks.
Prior to the Act, Maryland law simply characterized disabilities caused or contributed to by pregnancy or childbirth as “temporary disabilities,” and directed employers to extend the same terms and conditions of any temporary disability policy to employees with pregnancy-related disabilities. The new law, however, provides express directives to employers responding to a request from a pregnant employee for reasonable accommodations. Specifically, the Act requires the employer to explore all possible means of providing that accommodation, including:
- Changing an employee’s job duties or work hours;
- Relocating an employee’s work area;
- Providing mechanical or electrical aids;
- Transferring the employee to a less strenuous or hazardous position; or
- Providing necessary leave.
Of course, as with all reasonable accommodation requests, this requirement is subject to the rule that an employer need not provide an accommodation when doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer. Additionally, employers are entitled to require certification from the employee’s healthcare provider of the disability – to the same extent a certification is required for other temporary disabilities – before providing an accommodation.
The Act further requires that, where an employer has a policy of transferring temporarily disabled employees to a less strenuous or hazardous job, the employer must also provide the same type of transfer to a pregnant employee upon her request, and must allow her to remain in that position for the duration of her pregnancy. Such a transfer shall also occur where a pregnant employee’s health care provider advises it, and the employer can accomplish the transfer without having to:
- Create additional employment which the employer otherwise would not have created;
- Discharge any employee;
- Transfer a more senior employee; or
- Promote an unqualified employee.
Finally, the new statute requires employers to conspicuously post in the workplace information related to a pregnant worker’s rights to reasonable accommodations and leave, and to also include the information in all employee handbooks.
In order to assist employers with this new directive, the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights (“MCCR”) has issued guidance on the key provisions of the Act, the posting requirement, and the prohibition against retaliation. A link to this guidance can be found on MCCR’s homepage: http://mccr.maryland.gov/. The Act does not direct that agency to create a poster for employers; however, as MCCR is in the process of redoing all of its anti-discrimination posters and brochures, the agency will create a poster to address this new statutory right. In the interim, however, MCCR advises employers to consult with legal counsel for language consistent with the Act to post and provide in employee handbooks.
For more information please contact Carolyn Mech at 410-583-2400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.