Representing Chicago and
the Entire State of Illinois
An employer may not terminate an employee or take other adverse job action on account of sex or pregnancy. Work rules must be applied uniformly to all employees, regardless of the sex of the employee. It has been my experience that when an attorney starts to examine this, many times he can find that pregnant women are not being treated properly. Work policies that have a disproportionately adverse impact on one sex are strictly prohibited. Employers may not discriminate because you are pregnant. Learn whether your employer has violated Title VII or other laws and protect your rights. Many times an employer gets mad when a person gets pregnant because they perceive this as an inconvenience on the business. Well the short answer to that is too bad. By law they can not make work difficult for a pregnant woman.
An employer may not single out pregnancy-related conditions for special procedures to determine an employee’s ability to work. However, if an employer requires its employees to submit a doctor’s statement concerning their inability to work before granting leave or paying sick benefits, the employer may require employees affected by pregnancy-related conditions to submit such statements. However, the instructions given to you by the boss are subject to review by my office. Don’t just let the boss tell you something as though it was gospel. There are work related rights you have as an employee and those may not be taken away by anyone.
Regarding a company and how they pay benefits like health insurance the rules are that amounts payable by the insurance provider can be limited only to the same extent as those which are payable for other conditions. Therefore if a person takes leave to take care of a sick family member the benefit paid will be the same as the woman who takes leave to have a baby. No additional increase, including an increase in the deductible is allowed. If both are required to take Cobra that is acceptable but pregnant women can’t be singled out.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) adds additional protections to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Under the FMLA, pregnant employees who meet certain conditions are entitled to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave during a twelve month period for childbirth, adoption, serious health conditions or to care for a sick child or family member. This is not optional and the employer must follow the law. Also when you return to work you must get the same job or a job with equal pay and benefits.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC“), pregnancy discrimination is a growing problem. During this very tough economy employers are getting stricter and making life harder for all employees but especially those that are pregnant. It is very important that you contact my office early in the process so I can help. Remember the company has lawyers protecting their rights, so should you. Don’t be afraid to come forward and discuss your case. The most that can happen is you may be told you don’t have a case that my office can help you with. Better to try and fail than not try at all.
On January 1, 2016 Illinois passed the Illinois Pregnancy Accommodation Act (“IPAA”). Under the IPAA, an employer can only deny a request for a pregnancy accommodation when doing so would present an undue hardship. There will be future litigation and the courts will determine the exact meaning of what an undue hardship is. For right now to assert an undue hardship defense, the employer needs to demonstrate the accommodation substantially impacts the ordinary operations of the business. This defense however, comes with a rebuttable presumption that an accommodation will not impose an undue hardship if the company provides a similar accommodation to non-pregnant employees. So for example, if a worker is hurt and due to his injury he is given a desk job until he gets better, that same accommodation would be required to be given to a pregnant woman who asks for it.
Under the IPAA, you first have to file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (“IDHR”). If you are successful, you can ask for actual damages, back pay, reinstatement if you have been fired, lost benefits, pre-judgment interest, attorneys’ fees and costs.
Make sure you consult with an attorney and protect your rights under this new law.
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Peter LaSorsa, Attorney at Law
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