What is the new Illinois Pregnancy Rights in the Workplace Law?

New Protections for Pregnant Employees

Effective January 1, 2015, Public Act 98-1050 amended the Illinois Human Rights Act to establish pregnancy as an independent protected class and create new protections for pregnant employees. 

Coverage

The new Illinois Pregnancy Rights in the Workplace Law applies to Illinois employers employing 1 or more employees, and covers employees who are pregnant, have recently given birth, or who have a medical or common condition related to their pregnancy or childbirth. 

Pregnancy Discrimination Prohibited

The new law makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee or job applicant on the basis of pregnancy, in terms of hiring, promotion, training, discharge, discipline, benefits, and privileges or conditions of employment. 

Reasonable Accommodation and Maternity Leave

In addition, the new law requires Illinois employers to provide reasonable accommodation to pregnant employees, unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on business operations.  A reasonable accommodation is defined as 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.  The amendment lists many examples of reasonable accommodations, including, significantly, time off to recover from pregnancy, and leave necessitated by pregnancy.  This effectively creates a statutory duty for an Illinois employer to provide a pregnant employee with maternity leave. 

Reinstatement

The employer is also required to reinstate the employee to her original job or an equivalent position upon her return from maternity leave, unless reinstatement would impose an undue hardship on the ordinary operations of the employer. 

Retaliation Prohibited

Retaliation against an employee because the employee requested or was provided any reasonable accommodation is prohibited.