On March 3, 2015, the D.C. Protecting Pregnant Workers Fairness Act of 2014 became effective.  The Act provides increased protections for pregnant workers and requires employers to provide reasonable workplace accommodations for workers whose ability to perform job functions are limited by pregnancy, childbirth, a related medical condition, or breastfeeding.  The Act, which applies to all D.C. employers, contains several important components, which are briefly described below.

Reasonable Accommodations

The Act requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations to covered employees so long as it would not result in an undue hardship in the operation of the employer’s business.  The Act lists the following as examples of reasonable accommodations: more frequent or longer breaks, time off to recover from childbirth, the acquisition or modification of equipment or seating, the temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position or other job restructuring such as providing light duty or a modified work schedule, having the employee refrain from heavy lifting, relocating the employee’s work area, or providing private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk.

The Act defines undue hardship as any action that would require either significant difficulty or expense on the part of the employer.  What will constitute an undue hardship will vary from case to case and depend on the nature of the employer’s business, its size and its financial resources.  The Act also requires employers to engage in a good faith interactive process with employees who request or otherwise need an accommodation.

Certification

The Act allows employers to require medical certification from an employee’s health care provider concerning the advisability of a request accommodation, so long as the certification requirement is no more demanding than certification required by the employer for other temporary disabilities.

Notice to Employees

The Act requires that employers post a notice of rights, in both English and Spanish, to (i) new employees at the commencement of their employment; (ii) existing employees by July 1, 2014; (iii) an employee who notifies the employer of her pregnancy other condition covered by this Act within 10 days of the notification.  The Act also requires employers to provide a translated noticed to non-English and Spanish speaking employees.

Enforcement

Employees can file a lawsuit or administrative action.  Employers in violation of the Act may be liable for pay back pay for lost wages, ordered to reinstate the employee or may be subject to other appropriate injunctive relief, and may be required to pay reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs of enforcement.  Employers may also face civil penalties.

The Act also requires the Mayor’s office to issue rules implementing the provisions of the Act, including with respect to its “undue hardship” requirement.  We will be monitoring for when those rules are issued.

With the passage of the Act, D.C. joins a growing number of states and cities, including New York City, Philadelphia, New Jersey, California and Illinois that require employers to accommodate pregnant employees.