Effective January 1, 2015 the pregnancy discrimination and accommodation amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) became law, requiring many employers in the state of Illinois to update or change their policies to expecting mothers in the workplace.
Pregnancy is a legally-protected class and defines the term “pregnancy” broadly to include: “pregnancy, childbirth, or medical or common conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth.” Accordingly, the amendments apply to employees and applicants who are expecting and who recently gave birth.
An employer should provide reasonable accommodation under the employee request. A reasonable accommodation is a reasonable modification or adjustment to the job application process or work environment, or to the manner or circumstances under which the position desired or held is customarily performed, that enable an applicant or employee affected by pregnancy to be considered for the position or to perform the essential functions of that position. Examples include:
- More frequent or longer bathroom breaks;
- Breaks for increased water or food intake;
- Breaks for periodic rests;
- Private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk and breastfeeding;
- Assistance with manual labor;
- Light duty;
- Temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position;
- The provision of an accessible worksite;
- Acquisition or modification of equipment;
- Job restructuring;
- A part-time or modified work schedule;
- Appropriate adjustment or modifications of examinations, training materials, or policies;
- Reassignment to a vacant position;
- Time off to recover from pregnancy; and
- Leave necessitated by pregnancy.
The employer and the employee must engage in a timely, good faith, and meaningful exchange to determine effective reasonable accommodation.
An employer is not required to create additional employment that the employer would not otherwise have created, unless the employer does so or would do so for other classes of employees who need accommodation.
An employer is not required to discharge any employee, transfer any employee with more seniority, or promote any employee who is not qualified to perform the job, unless the employer does so or would do so to accommodate other classes of employees who need it.
The employer may request documentation from the employee’s health care provider concerning the need for the requested accommodation to the same extent documentation is requested for conditions related to disability, so long as the employer’s request for documentation is job-related and consistent with business necessity. The scope of the employer’s documentation request is limited to the following:
- the medical justification for the requested accommodation(s),
- a description of the reasonable accommodation(s) that are medically advisable,
- the date the reasonable accommodation(s) became medically advisable, and
- the probable duration of the reasonable accommodation(s).
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