The South Carolina General Assembly has passed a new law that requires employers to provide additional protections to their pregnant employees. The South Carolina Pregnancy Accommodations Act (the “Act”) was passed on May 17, 2018, and amends the current Human Affairs Law, which prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on race, gender (including pregnancy), religion, national origin, age, and disability. The Act makes certain practices by employers unlawful, and also requires that employers provide additional accommodations that they have not previously been required to provide.
Specifically, the Act requires employers with 15 or more employees to make facilities readily accessible for and provide reasonable accommodations to employees with “medical needs arising from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions,” including lactations. Importantly, the Act also requires employers to provide employees with written notice of its protections and post related information in conspicuous areas.
Unlike the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”), which generally does not cover pregnant employees unless they experience complications, the new Act specifically requires employers to reasonably accommodate pregnant employees.
The Act identifies examples of possible reasonable accommodations as: providing a private place, other than a restroom stall, to express milk; providing more or longer break periods; allowing more frequent bathroom breaks; modifying the company’s food or drink policy; modifying work schedules; providing job restructuring or light-duty work, if available temporarily transferring the employee to a less strenuous vacant job.
The Act also makes the following practices unlawful: requiring a covered employee to accept an accommodation she does not want to accept; forcing an employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation exists.
The Act requires employers to provide written notice of the “right to be free from discrimination for medical needs arising from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.” This notice must be given to new employees upon initial employment and to existing employees no later than September 14, 2018. Also, employers are required to conspicuously post this notice in an area accessible to all employees.
Employers are required to comply with non-discrimination and accommodation provisions of the Act immediately. To do so, employers should review and update, as needed, policies addressing non-discrimination, accommodations, leave and light duty. Training human resources employees, as well as all supervisors and managers in dealing with the Act’s requirements and prohibitions is also recommended to assist in dealing with pregnancy-related issues as they arise.
For assistance with any of these matters, please call or email Kris Cato at firstname.lastname@example.org or 803-349-4397.