Oregon Expands Protections for Pregnant Workers

Protections for Pregnant Workers

Protections for Pregnant Workers

Oregon employers with more than six employees must comply with a new discrimination law that requires reasonable accommodations for employees and prospective employees who have limitations related to pregnancy, including childbirth and lactation. Unlike Oregon’s Family Leave Act or sick time law, there is no waiting period for employees prior to becoming eligible for these protections.


What This New Oregon Labor Law Requires

The new Employer Accommodation for Pregnancy Act requires all employers with more than six employees to provide accommodations for known limitations relating to pregnancy, childbirth, and any related medical condition such as lactation. Reasonable accommodations may include acquiring or modifying equipment or devices, providing longer or more frequent breaks, assisting with manual labor, or modifying work schedules and job assignments.


The law also expands protections against pregnancy-related discrimination by prohibiting employers from denying employment opportunities to an applicant or employee based on the need to make reasonable accommodation; taking adverse employment action against an employee for inquiring about, requesting, or using a reasonable accommodation; requiring an applicant or employee to accept unreasonable accommodations, or using leave provided under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) instead of reasonable accommodation.


Accommodations are required unless they would be considered an undue hardship for the employer. The law considers an undue hardship to be an accommodation that requires “significant difficulty or expense,” considering the nature and cost of the accommodation, the financial resources and the size of the facility providing the accommodation, the financial resources and the size of the employer, and the type of operations conducted by the employer. An employer refusing accommodation based on undue hardship must be prepared to prove it.


Steps That Oregon Employers Must Take to Comply With This New Law

Employers must post signs about this new protection in a conspicuous and accessible location. They must also provide a written copy of the notice of the right to have reasonable accommodation for known limitations relating to pregnancy, childbirth, and pregnancy-related medical conditions. These written notices must be provided to new employees at the time of hire and to existing employees by June 29, 2020 (180 days after the effective date of the law). Any employee who informs the employer of the employee’s pregnancy must receive a written copy of the notice within 10 days.


The new reasonable accommodations protection follows expanded protections in Oregon that took effect at the end of September 2019 for all employers to provide a reasonable rest period to express milk each time the employee needs to do so. The new law differs from the prior law, which had required a set amount of time for each four-hour segment of work. Under the new law, the frequency, timing, and duration of the rest period may vary. Employers with 10 or fewer employees may assert an exemption to this rest period requirement if providing the break would impose an undue hardship.


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