Kentucky Extends New Protections to Pregnant Workers

Kentucky employers must be aware of new legislation that significantly impacts the legal protections afforded to pregnant employees. The Kentucky Pregnant Workers Act, enacted during the 2019 General Assembly, makes major additions to the Kentucky Civil Rights Act’s protections for pregnant workers.  The amendments apply to Kentucky employers with 15 or more employees within the state.  The Act requires that these employers make “reasonable accommodations” for employees who are physically limited due to pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions, unless such accommodations would impose an undue hardship on the employer.  The Act will become effective on June 29, 2019.  Kentucky employers should prepare to make any necessary changes to their workplace policies immediately.

Reasonable Accommodations

The Kentucky Civil Rights Act already prohibited discriminatory practices against pregnant women in the workplace, and the new amendments expand upon this protection by requiring that employers make reasonable accommodations for an employee limited by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.  Related medical conditions is defined in the Act as including (though not limited to) lactation or the need to express breast milk for a nursing child.  The Act encourages cooperation and requires that the employer and employee engage in a timely, good faith and interactive process to mutually determine effective reasonable accommodations.

The Act further includes a non-exhaustive list of potential reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers: frequent or longer breaks, time off to recover from childbirth, acquisition or modification of equipment, appropriate seating, temporary transfer to a less strenuous or less hazardous position, job restructuring, light duty, modified work schedule, and private space that is not a bathroom for expressing breast milk.  The Act adds that a pregnant employee may not be forced to take leave from work if another reasonable accommodation can be provided.

Undue Hardship

The Act adds two additional factors to consider when assessing a requested accommodation for undue hardship on a place of business.  First, an employer must consider the duration of the requested accommodation.  Further, the employer must assess whether similar accommodations required by policy are currently being made, have previously been made, or would be made for employees due to any other reason.  Thus, an employer already providing similar accommodations for other classes of employees will create a rebuttable presumption that the accommodation does not impose an undue burden.

Notice Requirement for Employers

The Act requires employers to give written notice of the law to new employees at the beginning of employment.  For existing employees, employers must give notice of the new law no later than July 27, 2019, which is 30 days after the effective date of the Act.  Employers must also display a written notice of these amendments at their place of business, conspicuously posted in an area accessible to employees.