As labor and employment lawyers in Columbia, South Carolina, we advise our business clients concerning the treatment of pregnant employees. On May 17, 2018, our Governor signed into law the South Carolina Pregnancy Accommodations Act. This new law requires employers to make certain reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees and is effective immediately. In this article, we will explain what you need to know about South Carolina’s new law on pregnant employees.
South Carolina Employers Must Make Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Employees
Federal law has barred discrimination based on pregnancy since the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed by Congress in 1978. In South Carolina, the Human Affairs Law also bars discrimination based on pregnancy. However, neither law required employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees. South Carolina’s expanded law now requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations. The law provides:
- Employers make reasonable accommodations for medical needs arising from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions of an applicant for employment or an employee, unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the business of the employer.
- Employers may not deny employment opportunities to a job applicant or employee, if the denial is based on the need of the employer to make reasonable accommodations to the known limitations for medical needs arising from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions of an applicant for employment or an employee.
- An employer may not require an applicant for employment or an employee affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions to accept an accommodation that the applicant or employee chooses not to accept, if the applicant or employee does not have a known limitation related to pregnancy, or if the accommodation is unnecessary for the applicant or employee to perform the essential duties of her job.
- Employers may not require an employee to take leave under any leave law or policy of the employer if another reasonable accommodation can be provided to the known limitations for medical needs arising from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
- An employer may not take adverse action against an employee in the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment for requesting or using a reasonable accommodation to the known limitations for medical needs arising from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
South Carolina Employers Must Provide Notice to Employees
The law requires employers to give written notice to new employees at the time of hire of the right to be free from discrimination for medical needs relating to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. In addition, by September 14, 2018, employers must provide written notice to current employees. The law also has a notice-posting requirement.
What Should South Carolina Employers Do?
Employers should review their procedures and jobs for areas in which a reasonable accommodation may be required for pregnant employees, or where leave or other accommodations previously required need to be re-evaluated. Anti-discrimination policies and policies relating to the provision of reasonable accommodations may also need to be reviewed and revised. Also, employers need to develop written notices to provide their new hires and current employees, as well as update their labor postings.
If you have questions about your business’s obligations to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees or need assistance reviewing policies or procedures, please contact one of our experienced employment attorneys.