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Illinois House approves bill to give pregnant employees new civil rights

Monday, April 14, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Renee E. Coover, JD
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On Thursday, the Illinois House approved legislation that would give pregnant employees new civil rights in the workplace. This could be the biggest victory pregnant employees- especially women in small businesses- have ever seen in Illinois. House Bill No. 8, introduced by Illinois House Rep. Mary Flowers and favored by Governor Pat Quinn, would require employers to provide "reasonable accommodations” for all working pregnant women, including part-time and full-time employees.

The Bill passed the House by a vote of 65-36 and now moves on to the Senate for final approval. If passed, this bill will amend the Illinois Human Rights Act, providing that with respect to employment, it is a civil rights violation for an employer to refuse to provide reasonable accommodations to a pregnant employee for conditions related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

Reasonable accommodations may include permitting pregnant employees to take frequent bathroom and water breaks, providing seating, assistance with manual labor, adjusted work schedules, a reduction in physically demanding tasks, time off to recover from childbirth and designated spaces for breast-feeding. Unless the reasonable accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the business, the employer will be required to undertake these accommodations if requested by a pregnant employee.

During the new bill’s debate on the House floor in Springfield on Thursday, Governor Quinn made an appearance to show his support for the measure. Quinn later issued a formal statement, and said, "No woman should have to decide between keeping her job or keeping her baby. I commend Representative Mary Flowers for championing this bill and securing its passage in the House. I urge the Senate to quickly pass this important bill.”

Republican opponents of the bill argue that the bill has many undefined terms ripe for abuse and it could open small businesses to various legal liabilities, resulting in higher costs and lower profits. A general worry among opponents is that this legislation, which is modeled after existing California and New York City laws, will result in a plethora of lawsuits. But Rep. Flowers has disagreed, arguing during the bill’s debate that, "Women are not interested in suing. They just want to be protected and respected like other employees.”

Employers should prepare for the passage of this bill by reviewing their current workplace policies, educating management, and preparing their business for compliance with this proposed legislation. If you have questions about appropriate workplace policies regarding pregnant employees, it is important to consult with an attorney who can advise you on the current laws and regulations.

Read proposed Bill 8 here:http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=8&GAID=12&DocTypeID=HB&SessionID=85&GA=98

Renee Elise Coover, JD <renee@americanmedspa.org> serves as Associate General Counsel for AmSpa and specializes in med spa and employment law.For more information, contact Renee E. Coover, JD at AmSpa, 180 N. LaSalle St., Suite 3700, Chicago, Illinois 60601, (312) 981-0992 orrenee@americanmedspa.org.


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