On January 20, 2014, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed into effect an amendment to the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance: Protections Against Unlawful Discrimination that expressly includes pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition among those categories protected from unlawful discrimination.
The city law covers employers who do business in Philadelphia through employees or who employ one or more employees. Before this amendment, employers’ obligations under city, state, and federal antidiscrimination laws only required them to treat employees with pregnancy-related issues no worse than any other disabled employee with respect to accommodations. Now employers are not only prohibited from denying or interfering with an individual’s employment opportunities on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, but employers also are required to make reasonable accommodations on these bases to an employee who requests it. The legislation’s non-exhaustive examples of reasonable accommodations include restroom breaks, periodic rest for those who stand for long periods of time, assistance with manual labor, leave for a period of disability arising from childbirth, reassignment to a vacant position, and job restructuring. Employers have an affirmative defense under the law for failing to accommodate an employee if such accommodations would cause an undue hardship.
Employers should take note that this law increases the burden on them to provide reasonable accommodations, since examples like reassignment and job restructuring have traditionally not been required under similar federal and state laws that mandate accommodations for individuals with disabilities. Thus, employers should review their policies and other written materials regarding employee accommodations to ensure that they reflect the increased protections afforded by the amendment. Employers were required to provide written notice to its employees of the protections under this amendment by April 20th or post the notice conspicuously at its place of business in an area accessible to employees. The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations has provided a model notice to employees, which can be found at: http://www.phila.gov/HumanRelations/PDF/pregnancy_poster.pdf.
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