Kentucky Passes Pregnant Workers Act, Requiring Reasonable Accomodations for Pregnant Employees

On April 9, 2019, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin (R) signed the Pregnant Workers Act, SB 18, which requires employers who have at least 15 employees in Kentucky to provide reasonable accommodations to employees for pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions. The law becomes effective on June 27, 2019.

While discrimination against pregnant employees is already prohibited under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act (KCRA), as well as federal law, the new law amends the KCRA and now requires employers to go one step further and provide reasonable accommodations for an employee's limitations due to her pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.  "Related medical conditions" is defined under the statute to include (but is not limited to) lactation and the need to express breast milk.

The law provides examples of the types of accommodations that may be appropriate, including more 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, light duty, modified work schedule and private space that is not a bathroom for expressing breast milk.

Other key aspects of the new Kentucky Pregnant Workers Act include:

  1.  an employee cannot be required to take leave from work if another reasonable accommodation can be provided;
  2. both the employer and employee must engage in a timely, good faith and interactive process to determine effective reasonable accommodations (similar to the ADA's interactive process);
  3. reasonable accommodations must be provided unless the employer can demonstrate an undue hardship; and
  4. if an employer provides similar accommodations to other employees under a company policy (e.g., light duty policies), a rebuttable presumption is established that the accommodation does not impose an undue hardship on the employer.

The law also imposes new notice and posting obligations. It requires employers to notify current employees of their right to be free from discrimination in relation to pregnancy, childbirth and related conditions - including their right to reasonable accommodation - within 30 days of its June 27, 2019 effective date. New employees must receive similar notice at the commencement of their employment. Additionally, employers must conspicuously post a notice of the law's requirements in their workplaces by June 27, 2019.

If you need assistance with meeting the obligations under the new law, please contact a member of our Labor & Employment Group.

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