Pregnancy-Related Workplace Accommodations for Vermont Employees

Hi, I’m Cary Brown, Director of
the Vermont Commission on Women. We’re working with Vermont’s Attorney General,
Human Rights Commission, Department of Health, Department of Health, and Department of Labor
to inform Vermonters about a new law. It provides protection to employees who need an accommodation to perform their job because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition
related to pregnancy or childbirth. Does this apply to my workplace? Yes. All Vermont workplaces, as of January 1, 2018, must provide reasonable accommodations for an employee’s pregnancy or
childbirth related condition. What are some examples of possible
reasonable accommodations? There is no definitive list of
reasonable accommodations. What is reasonable will depend on many factors, including size of the employer, the type of work done, the type of limitations the employee
may have in performing that work. Employers and employees may have to try more
than one accommodation to see what works best. Here are some examples: Allowing for longer or more frequent restroom breaks Allowing eating and drinking at workstations Providing a chair or stool,
to sit or lean on Providing anti-fatigue matting on the floor Limiting lifting, bending, reaching, pushing, and pulling Furnishing compact lifting devices to lift,
push, and pull items Allowing a flexible schedule, a reduced work
schedule, or flexible use of leave time Excusing employees from mandatory overtime Arranging a day shift Providing rest breaks Temporarily reassigning to available light
duty positions or temporarily restructuring job functions Substituting safer chemicals, when appropriate,
for example, non-toxic cleaning Providing personal protective equipment for handling and working around hazardous substances Providing time to recover from childbirth Allowing time off for medical appointments What do pregnant workers need to do to
request a reasonable accommodation? There are no “magic words,” just tell your
direct supervisor, Human Resources, or someone else in charge about what
you need to stay healthy on the job. Can pregnant workers be required to take leave even if they can perform essential job functions with or without accommodation? No. Employers can’t force employees to take leave because they are or have been pregnant, if they’re able to perform their essential job
duties either with or without an accommodation. Employers also can’t make changes to the terms
and conditions of employment based on assumptions or perceptions about pregnant workers. It is up to employees to request
the accommodation they need. What if employees can’t complete
the essential functions of their job
with a reasonable accommodation? Employees must be able to perform the
essential functions, or basic duties, of their job with or without a reasonable accommodation
to be considered a qualified employee. Employers must engage in an ongoing discussion
with the employee to explore different options that may accommodate the employee, so they
can perform the essential functions of their job. For example, it may be that temporary leave
will provide rest or recovery time that will allow the employee to perform
those essential functions. For most employers, finding some reasonable
accommodation will be relatively simple. If, after working with the employee to try and
find a reasonable accommodation one cannot be found, termination from employment is possible. Can employers request a doctor’s note to
“back up” these accommodation requests? Yes, if the medical note is necessary
to make the determination, and if they request doctor’s notes for other
workers with similar medical needs. The law says accommodations must be made unless
they impose an undue hardship on the employer. What does that mean? An accommodation creates an undue hardship
if it would be significantly difficult, unduly expensive, or unworkable to put into place. Does the pregnant worker need to have a disability
in order to receive an accommodation? No, but they do need to identify some limitation
in their ability to do the job caused by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. The purpose of the accommodation
is to address those limitations. Would employees not eligible through their
jobs for parental and family leave be eligible for leave as an accommodation? Yes, if the request for leave is reasonable
and does not present an undue hardship. All pregnant employees, not only those
eligible through their jobs for parental or family leave, are covered by this law. Is there a certain amount of time that employees need to have worked for an employer for the law to apply? No. All employees, no matter their
time of service are eligible. I need to express breastmilk at work.
Does this law cover that? Yes, and that’s also covered by other laws
that provide time, either paid or unpaid, and a private space other than a bathroom. Are employers obligated under this
law to provide paid breaks? No, unless employers are offering them
to other workers with similar medical
needs or work limitations. What happens if an employer ignores, fires,
or retaliates against an employee requesting a reasonable accommodation for pregnancy
or a pregnancy-related condition? They could be held liable for damages,
civil penalties, and attorney’s fees. They could also be ordered to reinstate the
employee and provide the requested accommodation. I belong to a union. Does the law still protect me? Yes, and the law does not take away any additional rights you might have under a union contract. I had a miscarriage and my doctor doesn’t
want me to do heavy lifting while I heal. Does the law protect me? Yes. I live in Vermont, but I work in another state.
Does the law apply to me? No. I have more questions. Who can help? For private, county and municipal employment, contact:
Civil Rights Unit, Vermont Attorney General’s Office
(888-745-9195) For state government employment: contact
the Vermont Human Rights Commission
(800-416-2010) Sponsored by:
Vermont Department of Health
Vermont Attorney General, Civil Rights Unit
Vermont Human Rights Commission
Vermont Commission on Women Special thanks to:
A Better Balance: The Work & Family Legal Center
Change The Story Vermont
Marybeth Christie Redmond, VCW Commissioner
Colin Ryan, VCW Commissioner
Kerin Stackpole, Esq., Paul Frank + Collins, P.C.
Regional Educational Television Network (RETN)
Vermont Department of Labor
Vermont Works for Women Vermont Commission on Women
800-881-1561 Thank you for watching!

Paul Whisler

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