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New Illinois Law Will Require Pregnancy Accommodations

Glen Ellyn Family Law Firm

Illinois has seen many positive changes in support of women’s equality recently. In addition to signing an amendment to the Equal Pay Act that will centralize workplace discrimination investigations, Governor Quinn also signed into law a bill that will expand accommodations for expecting and new mothers. Effective January 1, 2015, this amendment to the Illinois Human Rights act will act in conjunction with existing law under the Family and Medical Leave Act and federal regulations such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act to improve accommodations for women during and after pregnancy. This new law will have positive implications on women in the workplace, their future children, and their families.

Amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act

Existing law under the Family and Medical Leave Act will permit up to 12 weeks of leave to eligible employees. Eligibility requirements include meeting a mandatory minimum of working hours (1,250 hours in 12 months prior to the request for leave) before being able to receive such time off. This requirement is omitted in the new law, thus allowing both part- and full-time employees the opportunity to enjoy time off, regardless of how long they have been employed.

The new law also leaves out language dictating a maximum amount of time a woman can take on leave. While set for 12 weeks under the Family and Medical Leave Act, this act does not enumerate a specific time period. If an employer takes issue with the amount of time an employee is taking off, or simply wishes to inquire, the employer may request a medical certification from the woman’s physician.

Employers

In addition be being able to request a medical certification, employers will have a high burden if they want to limit the accommodation or time off for a pregnant employee. Employers must demonstrate that providing the reasonable accommodation for the employee would create an “undue hardship” on the business. According to Illinois law, relevant considerations in determining undue hardship on a business include:

  • Nature of accommodation requested;
  • Cost of accommodation requested;
  • Financial resources available;
  • Size of the business;
  • Number, type, location of facilities; and
  • Type of occupation.

Under the law, it is the employer that bears the burden of demonstrating that providing the accommodation would be an undue hardship that is “prohibitively expensive or disruptive when considered in light of” the above factors. This burden is in addition to a rebuttable presumption against employers that an accommodation is reasonable and will not cause undue hardship if the employer would need to provide similar accommodations to similarly-situated employees.

Employees

The primary objective of this bill is to perpetuate gender equality in the workplace. The idea that women have to decide whether to be mothers or have a career is a thing of the past, and something that Illinois lawmakers are working hard to reform. The family dynamic is ever-changing as women of childbearing age make up an estimated 54 percent of the Illinois workplace, and lawmakers are attempting to keep up with this movement. This bill, besides ensuring job security, flexibility, and comfort measures for new and expecting moms may provide women with:

  • Limits on manual labor and heavy lifting;
  • Increased access to places to sit;
  • Additional restroom breaks;
  • Break space for breast feeding; and
  • Time off after childbirth.

Often, women feel as though they cannot take the time they need both pre- and post-pregnancy. This implicates health concern with women pushing themselves to work when they may not be in a position where this is the sound decision for themselves and their new baby. There may be family pressures, financial pressures, or concerns about job security.

This legislation aims to ease these concerns and ensure that women are not punished by their employers for their choice to become a mother. If they choose to do so, women may be able to get back to work sooner under these laws, given that accommodations must be provided by law to ease the transition. This new law also requires that this information be made readily available to employees by employers, whether it be posted or in a handbook.

Contact a DuPage County Family Law Attorney Today

Deciding to start or grow your family is an important, personal decision that does not affect your ability to do your job. If you and your family have questions about your rights, obligations, or responsibilities under the new Illinois Pregnancy Accommodation law, or your rights as a parent generally, an experienced DuPage County family law attorney can help you understand these rights. A new addition to the family may cause emotional and financial stressors for you and your loved ones, but our dedicated family law attorneys at Mulyk Laho Law, LLC will ensure that your rights are protected. Contact our Glen Ellyn, Illinois office today.

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45 S. Park Blvd., Suite 230, Glen Ellyn, IL 60137
Phone: (630) 852-1100
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