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Rhode Island employers now required to accommodate pregnancy and related conditions

August 11th, 2015  |  Deborah Hammonds

Employers in Rhode Island must now reasonably accommodate pregnancy and related conditions under legislation signed by Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo. The bill requires employers to consider the needs of women with medical issues related to pregnancy or who express breast milk for a nursing child.

“As a working mother, it was important to sign this bill to show support for pregnant and nursing women in the workplace,” said Governor Raimondo at the bill-signing ceremony. “I know firsthand how important it is to work in a welcoming, professional and supportive environment when pregnant and after having a child. Having different perspectives in the workplace will foster productivity and ultimately make our economy stronger.”

The legislation (H 5674/S 0276) was sponsored by Senator Hanna M. Gallo and Representative Shelby Maldonado and approved by the General Assembly. The bill became effective upon passage.

The Act amends the state’s Fair Employment Practices law to require employers to reasonably accommodate an employee’s (or prospective employee’s) pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition, including the need to express breast milk for a nursing child, unless the employer can demonstrate that an accommodation would impose an undue hardship. The law also prohibits an employer from requiring an employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided for the employee’s pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition (including, but not limited to, lactation or the need to express breast milk for a nursing child).

“Reasonably accommodate” is defined as including, but not limited to, more frequent or longer breaks, time off to recover from childbirth, acquisition or modification of equipment, seating, temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position, job restructuring, light duty, break time and private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk, assistance with manual labor, or modified work schedules.

“A good female employee does not stop being a good employee simply because she becomes pregnant or gives birth,” said Senator Gallo. “Progressive companies that acknowledge the value of all their employees will readily make these kinds of accommodations. Those employers that may not be so open-minded will, by virtue of this legislation, be required to.”

“The bill also prohibits employers from requiring an employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided,” said Representative Maldonado. “It’s all about fairness to women. It also makes it unlawful to deny employment opportunities to an employee or prospective employee if such denial is based on the refusal of the employer to reasonably accommodate an employee’s condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.”

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