The Utah Legislature has passed SB 59, which amends the Utah Antidiscrimination Act to provide additional protections for pregnant and breastfeeding women in the workplace.
This law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees upon request for conditions related to pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding, unless doing so would create an “undue hardship.” Employers are also prohibited from terminating or denying employment opportunities to an employee to avoid providing reasonable accommodations.
Reasonable accommodations can take many forms, such as providing a private room for employees to pump breast milk or providing more frequent rest breaks. The law explicitly states, however, that an employer is not required to permit an employee to bring her child to work as an accommodation.
An employer can refuse to provide a reasonable accommodation only by demonstrating that it would create an “undue hardship” on the operations of the employer. Whether an undue hardship exists will depend on the difficulty or expense of providing the accommodation in relation to the size of the employer, its financial resources, and the nature and structure of its operations.
An employer may require an employee to provide a medical certification before granting a reasonable accommodation. This certification should include the date the accommodation becomes medically advisable, the probable duration of the accommodation, and an explanation of the medical advisability of the accommodation. An employee cannot require a certification, however, if the request for a reasonable accommodation is limited to more frequent restroom, food, or water breaks.
Employers will also be required to provide written notice of an employee’s rights under this law in an employee handbook or in a conspicuous place in the workplace.
This law will apply to all employers with 15 or more employees within Utah. It follows two new laws from 2015 that protect breastfeeding women in the workplace.
HB 105 added “breastfeeding and medical conditions related to breastfeeding” to the definition of “pregnancy, childbirth, or pregnancy-related conditions” to ensure that breastfeeding employees receive the same protection as pregnant employees under existing laws.
HB 242 requires public employers to provide a public employee who is breastfeeding with reasonable breaks, access to a clean, private room with an electrical outlet, and access to a refrigerator or freezer for the temporary storage of the employee’s breast milk. SB 59 amends this law to allow a public employer to provide a nonelectric insulated container instead of a refrigerator when the employee does not work in an office building. SB 59 does not, however, extend these specific requirements to the private sector. It only requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations, as explained above.
SB 59 is awaiting the Governor’s signature. Once signed, it will go into effect in May 2016.