In a showing of bipartisan cooperation, the state House passed a compromise bill May 24 on accommodations for pregnant employees in the workplace.
HB 6668 largely mirrors existing federal law that applies to businesses with 15 or more employees and follows standard human resources best practices.
The bill, which passed 120-30, requires employers with three or more employees to provide reasonable workplace accommodations for pregnant employees unless it imposes an undue hardship on the employer.
Reasonable accommodations may include, but are not limited to, being allowed to sit while working, more frequent breaks, periodic rest, job restructuring, and modified work schedules.
It also prohibits employers from limiting, segregating, or classifying an employee to deprive them of employment opportunities due to pregnancy, or forcing a pregnant employee or applicant to accept a reasonable accommodation if they do not need one.
Finally, the bill requires employers to provide employees with written notice of their right to be free from discrimination in relation to pregnancy, and their right to accommodation.
An employer can comply by displaying a notice in the workplace.
Rebuttable Presumption Issue
Earlier drafts of the bill created a rebuttable presumption that any accommodation an employer had ever made for a pregnant employee would not be deemed an undue hardship.
Therefore, they would always be required to provide such accommodation, regardless of changes in their business or ability to pay for such accommodation.
HB 6668 emerged a far better bill thanks to bipartisan cooperation, with lawmakers considering its impact on businesses.
Attempts to return the language stalled the bill for several weeks.
However, House leadership decided to act on the compromise bill without the presumption language.
Despite the compromise, not all representatives supported the bill.
Some had legitimate concerns that the bill provides the state's Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities with new educational and oversight responsibilities.
CHRO has become an increasing source of frustration for businesses as the discrimination claim process encourages monetary settlement, regardless of guilt.
But the bill is, without question, a new mandate on small businesses—even if it does, in most respects, mirror existing federal law.
HB 6668 is not perfect, but it emerged a far better bill than originally drafted thanks to bipartisan cooperation, with lawmakers considering its impact on the business community.
If this were done more often, Connecticut's business climate would improve greatly.