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A new pregnancy law/amendment to the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) that prohibits discrimination and provides accommodation/protection to expectant mothers during their pregnancy and childbirth will take effect next year.

The amendments apply to all Illinois employers and virtually all employees.

The duty to accommodate women affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related conditions imposed by the new amendments extends to Illinois employers of all sizes and applies to all full-time, part-time and probationary employees.

The amendments impose a legal obligation to accommodate pregnancy and childbirth-related conditions.

The IHRA amendments detail an employer’s legal obligation to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant applicants and employees if requested.

The IHRA’s examples of reasonable accommodations include (but are not limited to) more frequent or longer bathroom breaks; breaks for increased water intake and periodic rest; a private non-bathroom space for breastfeeding and expressing breast milk; job restructuring; part-time or modified work schedules; appropriate adjustments or modifications of examinations, training materials, or policies; and a reassignment to a vacant position, time off to recover from childbirth and leave required by the employee’s pregnancy, childbirth or related conditions.

“Undue hardship” is required to excuse an employer’s refusal to accommodate. 

An employer must demonstrate “undue hardship” on the ordinary operation of its business in order to refuse to provide a reasonable accommodation for any medical or common condition related to pregnancy or childbirth requested by an employee or applicant.

Job restoration rights. 

Absent a showing of undue hardship by the employer, an employee who has been affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or medical or common conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth must be reinstated to her original job or to an equivalent position with equivalent pay and accumulated seniority, retirement and fringe benefits, and other applicable service credits upon her signifying her intent to return or when her need for reasonable accommodation ceases.

Required handbook language and notice posting.

Illinois employers will be required to post a notice of employee rights, which will be made available from the Illinois Department of Human Rights. Additionally, employers that maintain handbooks must include in them information about employee rights with respect to accommodation under the new pregnancy law.