The General Assembly ended its session on June 7, 2017. There were few labor and employment developments as much of the focus was on the State's budget situation. The session featured bills that, if passed, would have significantly changed the current state of the law. For example, members of the General Assembly sought to establish paid FMLA leave, stronger pay equity measures and significant increases to the minimum wage. It is likely that most, if not all, of these bills will resurface in future sessions.
One of the bills that did pass was Public Act 17-118, "An Act Concerning Pregnant Women in the Workplace", which Governor Malloy signed on July 6, 2017. The law becomes effective on October 1, 2017 and amends the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (CFEPA) to provide additional protections for pregnant employees and applicants, including requiring employers to provide reasonable workplace accommodations unless the employer demonstrates that the accommodation would be an undue hardship. The law defines what constitutes a "reasonable accommodation" and an "undue hardship". Some reasonable accommodations include, without limitation, being permitted to sit while working, more frequent or longer breaks, periodic rest, job restructuring, light duty assignments and modified work schedules.
The law defines "pregnancy" broadly as "pregnancy, child birth or a related condition, including, but not limited to, lactation." Therefore, the definition of reasonable accommodation includes providing appropriate facilities for expressing breast milk.
Employers also are prohibited under the new law from requiring an employee or prospective employee to accept a reasonable accommodation if she: (1) does not have a known limitation related to her pregnancy; or (2) does not require a reasonable accommodation to perform the essential duties of her job. Similarly, an employer cannot require an employee to take a leave of absence if a reasonable accommodation can be provided in lieu of the leave, nor can an employer retaliate against an employee based upon her request for a reasonable accommodation.
Lastly, the law requires that employers provide notice to employees of their right to be free from pregnancy discrimination. This notice must be provided to: (1) new employees at the commencement of employment; (2) existing employees within 120 days after the statute becomes effective; and (3) any employee who notifies the employer of her pregnancy, within 10 days of notification. Employers may comply with this requirement by displaying a poster notifying employees of their rights in a conspicuous place that is accessible to employees, in both English and Spanish.
Before this statute takes effect, we encourage employers to review their employee handbooks and update their policies to comply with the law.