The State of Washington recently passed The Healthy Starts Act (Senate Bill 5835). Under the Act, employers with 15 or more employees are required to make reasonable accommodations for all pregnant employees, regardless of a disability.
What Employers Need to Know
First and foremost, the Department of Labor & Industries (DLI) has informed us that there are no plans to create a poster for this law.
Instead, the department is creating online educational materials for the DLI website based on the requirements of the law. These materials will explain the responsibilities of employers in relation to the rights of employees who have a health condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.
While the Act includes several accommodations, employers should note that these are in addition to the accommodations outlined in existing federal and state laws—the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Washington State Law Against Discrimination (WLAD).
Here are some of the reasonable accommodations that must be met after a request from a pregnant employee:
- Providing more frequent, longer, or flexible restroom breaks
- Modifying a no food or drink policy
- Providing seating or allowing the employee to sit more frequently if her job requires her to stand
For certain other accommodations, employers have the option to request written certification from a health care provider that the accommodations are necessary, and may be able to claim that they cause an undue hardship to the employer’s business. For example: providing job restructuring or a modified work schedule.
Under the act, employees may file a civil lawsuit against employers who allegedly fail to provide an accommodation, or they may file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office.
Labor law changes can take you by surprise, but have no fear—our Research Team is on the case! If you have not already done so, we recommend that you order our OneSystem 1-Year Compliance Plan, so that you will automatically receive the updated Washington poster the next time the state has a mandatory change. And because we provide free poster updates for mandatory changes, no matter how many occur during the 12-month period, you can count on us to keep you in compliance!