June 1, 2016

On March 28, 2016, Gov. Herbert signed SB 59 into law. As background, private Utah employers with 15 or more employees in Utah cannot discriminate (in any term of employment) against employees and applicants based on pregnancy, childbirth or pregnancy-related conditions. The new law amends the definition of “provision” as it relates to accommodation and provides for reasonable accommodations for an employee under certain circumstances related to pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and related conditions (unless the employer can show that accommodation would cause undue hardship to business operations).

Under the new law, employers must provide reasonable accommodations for employees’ pregnancy, childbirth, breast-feeding or related conditions, upon their request. Employers cannot discharge employees or deny them employment opportunities to avoid providing accommodations unless the employer can show undue hardship. “Undue hardship” means that the accommodation requires significant difficulty or expense to the employer, and does consider an employer’s size and financial resources, as well as the structure and nature of their business operations. Reasonable accommodation does not require employers to allow an employee’s children at the workplace as an accommodation. Also, employers can still discharge employees who are physically, mentally or emotionally unable to perform their required job duties (although employers in such a situation should work with outside counsel).

According to the new law, employers may require employees to provide certification or other information from the employee’s health care provider relating to the need for reasonable accommodation. The certification must include the date the reasonable accommodation became medically advisable, the expected duration of the need and a statement explaining the medical advisability of the accommodation. The certification may not be requested by an employer for an employee to be entitled to more frequent restroom, food or water breaks.

In addition to the above, the law also contains a notice requirement. To satisfy that, an employer may either post a written notice (in a conspicuous location in the workplace, such as a break room) or include a written notice in employee handbooks that describes the employee’s rights relating to reasonable accommodation. The new law became effective May 10, 2016.

Utah employers should be aware of the new reasonable accommodation requirements relating to the pregnancy discrimination law, and should work with outside counsel in developing employee policies and handbooks (as well as leave policies) that comply with the law.

SB 59 »