The Illinois Legislature has amended the Illinois Human Rights Act to protect pregnant employees from discrimination. House Bill 8, effective January 1, 2015, makes it unlawful for an Illinois employer to discharge, refuse to hire, segregate, or take other adverse employment action on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. An Illinois employer will also be required to provide reasonable accommodations to job applicants and part-time, full-time, or probationary employees for any medical or common condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation imposes an undue hardship on its business. Examples of the reasonable accommodations include: more frequent or longer bathroom breaks, breaks for increased water intake, and breaks for periodic rest; private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk and breastfeeding; seating; assistance with manual labor; light duty; temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position; an accessible worksite; acquisition or modification of equipment; job restructuring; a part-time modified work schedule; appropriate adjustment or modifications of examinations, training materials, or policies; reassignment to a vacant position; time-off to recover from conditions related to childbirth; and leave necessitated by pregnancy, childbirth or resulting conditions. The new law prohibits adverse job action based on the need of an employer to provide reasonable accommodations for conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. House Bill 8 also amends the retaliation provision of the Illinois Human Rights Act to make it unlawful for an employer to retaliate against a person because he or she requested, attempted to request, used, or attempted to use any reasonable accommodation under the Act (pregnancy or non-pregnancy related).
Illinois employers and Human Resources professionals should familiarize themselves with this expansive new employment law and prepare for a potential onslaught of pregnancy-related employment law issues in year 2015. Employee handbooks and employment policies should be revised to conform to the requirements of the new pregnancy discrimination law well in advance of its effective date.