New Law Affords Additional Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Employees in Philadelphia

On January 20, 2014, the City of Philadelphia amended its Fair Practices Ordinance: Protections Against Unlawful Discrimination (“Philadelphia Ordinance”) to require all Philadelphia employers, regardless of size, to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with special needs resulting from pregnancy or childbirth. The new law makes it unlawful for any Philadelphia employer to fail to provide reasonable accommodations to an employee for needs related to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition, as long as the accommodation does not pose an undue hardship to the business. Reasonable accommodations may include: restroom breaks, periodic rest breaks, assistance with manual labor, maternity leave, reassignment to a vacant position, and/or job restructuring.  The undue hardship test closely mirrors the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) undue hardship test, and requires an evaluation of the nature and cost of the accommodation; the overall financial resources of the employer’s facility or facilities involved in the provision of the reasonable accommodations, including the number of persons employed at such facility, the effect on expenses and resources or the impact of such accommodations on the operations of the employer; the number of the employer’s employees and the number, type and location of its facilities; and the type of operation or operations of the employer.

Importantly, the ordinance expands an employer’s obligations beyond those currently required under the ADA.  Pregnancy itself is not a disability covered by the ADA, although pregnancy-related impairments such as  hypertension, gestational diabetes, severe nausea, and sciatica are disabilities covered by the ADA when they substantially limit a major life activity.  The Philadelphia Ordinance, however, requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for needs relating to pregnancy and/or childbirth.  Current federal and state laws prohibit employers from discriminating against applicants or employees on the basis of pregnancy.

All current employees and any new employees must be provided with written notice of their rights under the new law by April 20, 2014. Notice must also be posted conspicuously at the employer’s place of business in a location accessible to all employees.  A copy of the applicable notice can be found here.

Philadelphia employers should review their equal employment opportunity, reasonable accommodation, and leave policies, as well as related training materials, to ensure that they are in alignment with the new requirements of this Ordinance.

Any questions? Please contact Amanda Lavis