A bill changing long-standing rules regarding accommodations for pregnant employees is making its way through the legislative process.
If enacted, the proposal could result in significant risks of increased litigation for Connecticut businesses over accommodations they made in the past for employees.
CBIA supports protections for pregnant employees found in existing state and federal law.
In fact, Connecticut's Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities described Connecticut's laws as "very progressive with respect to protections for pregnant employees."
HB 6668 deems it a discriminatory practice for an employer to fail to make a reasonable accommodation for a pregnant woman in the workplace.
Current law already requires businesses to make such accommodations, unless the accommodations cause an undue hardship to the employer.
Originally, the bill madeit a rebuttable presumption that if an employer provided, or would have been required to provide, an accommodation for a pregnant employee in the past, such accommodation is not an undue hardship and must also be provided to any future pregnant employee.
We should consider whether adequate enforcement of existing law is better than making businesses risk endless litigation.
The problem here is that a “reasonable accommodation” can change for an employer based on the employee’s job, the size of the business, and the cost of providing such accommodation.
An employer who provided an accommodation to one individual in the past is forever locked in to providing the same accommodation, regardless of changes to the business.
This opens up the possibility that any challenge to a failure to accommodate will generate litigation over not only what was provided previously, but what could have been provided.
If the rebuttable presumption language is restored to HB 6668, employers would have no choice.
One last concern worth noting is that the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities will enforce these new requirements.
Employers have expressed their frustration with the agency and its focus on mediation and settlement, including on cases employers believe are merit-less.
This bill addresses a serious workplace matter.
However, in a state that already is very progressive with respect to protections for pregnant employees, we should consider whether adequate enforcement of existing law is better than making businesses risk endlessly litigating what "could have been provided" to employees in the past.