On January, 1, 2015, employees who are experiencing medical conditions due to pregnancy or childbirth will have additional protections. Although laws were already on the books prohibiting discrimination against pregnant employees, the Illinois Pregnancy Fairness Bill is the first Illinois law to require wide, sweeping accommodations for pregnant employees – as well as employees experiencing conditions related to childbirth.
The new law prohibits employers from forcing an employee to take a leave of absence when a reasonable accommodation will allow the employee to continue to work. Examples of reasonable accommodations that may be available to employees include more frequent restroom breaks, assistance with manual labor, modified work schedules, time off to recover from childbirth and reasonable assignments to other positions.
The new law also allows employees with conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth to take a leave of absence when medically necessary. Although female employees previously could take leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, some women did not qualify because they were new employees or because they had exhausted their FMLA leave.
The ultimate goal of the new law is to allow employees with conditions related to childbirth or pregnancy to take leave if needed, but to also allow women who need a reasonable accommodation to continue performing their jobs, the ability to do so.
OSF HealthCare employs a high percentage of women and therefore, has always been sensitive to the need to accommodate pregnant employees. Likewise, OSF believes it has attracted and maintained a large female workforce because it has such a generous leave of absence policy.
Thus, although OSF will be updating its policies and training its employees on the new legal requirements, we do not believe we will need to substantially alter our practices.
Ultimately, we believe showing concern for the physical, spiritual, emotional and economical well-being of employees results in a better work environment as well as a happier, more productive workforce.