Before 2015, workplace laws in Illinois were insufficient when it came to protecting the rights of pregnant women and new mothers in the workplace. All that changed when lawmakers realized these employees were often discriminated against, fired or forced to go on unpaid leaves when they were due or suffered from complications. This used to be the case – even if employers could make reasonable accommodations to make their employees comfortable.
Besides the physical discomfort, other issues women faced due to this discrimination include lost wages, loss of opportunities and in some cases, unemployment. These often led to lifelong repercussions when it came to their financial health and wellbeing of their families.
The Pregnancy Accommodation Amendment
Put into effect January 1, 2015, the Illinois Human Rights Act was amended to provide such employees greater protection. Called the Pregnancy Accommodation Law or Public Act 98-1050, the amendment applies to every employer in the state who has one or more employees. It covers part-time and full-time workers, as well as those who are on probation and who are pregnant or become pregnant.
In other words, employers who discriminate based on pregnancy in Illinois will be committing a civil rights violation. Under the Act, employers cannot:
- Fail or refuse to accommodate a pregnant employee unless the accommodation will result in undue hardships for the business.
- Refuse to segregate, act or segregate with respect to hiring, employment renewal, recruitment, discipline based on pregnancy.
- Refuse to provide or hide job opportunities or benefits or act against a qualified job applicant if both are based on the employee or applicant’s need for pregnancy accommodation.
- Try and force an employee to accept accommodations they did not request and declined.
- Require an employee to take a leave of absence under any business policy if their request for accommodation cannot be provided.
- Fail to reinstate the employee to the same position or an equivalent one, along with the same pay as well as the same benefits and service credits when she confirms she wishes to return. This is the case unless the employer can prove reinstating the employee can result in undue business hardships.
- Fail to include the rights of pregnant employees in the company policy or handbook or fail to keep it in a conspicuous location.
- Retaliate against employees because they requested reasonable accommodations due to their pregnancy.
Common accommodation requests employers should give pregnant employees include breaks for increased water intake, more bathroom breaks, periodic rest and private bathroom space for expressing breast milk.
If you think you are being discriminated against because of your pregnancy, you need to understand your rights according to the law. The Law Office of Michael T. Smith has the lawyers who can represent you aggressively and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve and need. We’ll advise you on all legal options you have at your disposal. Get in touch with us at Schaumburg, Illinois, today.