New Maryland Law Requiring Accommodations for Pregnant Employees Becomes Effective October 1, 2013
Beginning October 1, 2013, Maryland employers with 15 or more employees must comply with the recently enacted Reasonable Accommodations for Disabilities Due to Pregnancy Act, which requires that Maryland employers provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities caused or contributed to by pregnancy. The Act makes it unlawful for an employer to fail or refuse to make a reasonable accommodation for the known disability of an otherwise qualified employee unless the accommodation imposes an undue hardship on the employer.
Like the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the new Maryland law requires all written and unwritten employment policies and practices to be applied to disabilities due to pregnancy or childbirth on the same terms and conditions as they are applied to other temporary disabilities. If a pregnant employee requests a reasonable accommodation, the Act requires that an employer explore certain reasonable accommodations with the employee, specifically including as follows:
- Changing the employee’s job duties;
- Changing the employee’s work hours;
- Relocating the employee’s work area;
- Providing mechanical or electrical aids;
- Transferring the employee to a less strenuous or less hazardous position; or
- Providing the employee with leave from his or her position.
The Act permits an employer to require its employees to provide a certification from a health care provider concerning the medical advisability of a reasonable accommodation to the same extent a certification would be required for other temporary disabilities. If an employee requests to be transferred to a less strenuous or less hazardous position, the Act requires that the employer honor the request if the employer has a policy, practice or collective bargaining agreement requiring or authorizing the transfer of other temporarily disabled employees. Similarly, if an employee requests to be transferred to a less strenuous or less hazardous position and the employee’s medical provider advises the transfer, an employer is required to transfer the employee. The Act does not, however, require that the employee be transferred where the transfer would require the employer to do any of the following:
- Create additional employment that the employer would not otherwise create;
- Discharge any employee;
- Transfer any employee with more seniority than the pregnant employee requesting the transfer; or
- Promote any employee who is not qualified to perform the job.
Significantly, the Act requires employers to post—in a conspicuous location—a notice informing employees of the rights provided under the law. Employers must also include information in their employee handbooks on reasonable accommodations and leave available to employees with disabilities caused or contributed to by pregnancy.
To ensure compliance with the Act, Maryland employers should update their employee handbooks and other policies relating to disability accommodation prior to October 1. Employers must also ensure that they are in compliance with the Act’s posting requirement in advance of the Act’s effective date.
For more information on this important development, feel free to contact the author or the Saul Ewing attorney with whom you normally work.