The Illinois Pregnancy Accommodation Act (“IPAA”), which became a law on January 1, 2015, amended the Illinois Human Rights Act and heightened the duty of all Illinois employers to reasonably accommodate job applicants and employees affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or medical or common conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth including probationary and part-time employees.

It is now a civil rights violation for Illinois employers to: (i) not make reasonable accommodations for any medical or common condition of an applicant or employee related to pregnancy or childbirth; (ii) deny employment opportunities or deny medical benefits to or take adverse action against an otherwise qualified job applicant or employee if the denial adverse action is based on the need of the employer to make reasonable accommodations to the known medical or common conditions related to the pregnancy or childbirth of the applicant or employee; (iii) require a job applicant or employee to accept an accommodation when she did not request and chooses not to accept one; (iv) require a job applicant or employee to take leave under any leave law or policy of the employer if another reasonable accommodation can be provided; or (v) refuse to reinstate employee affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or medical or common conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth to her original job or to an equivalent position with equivalent pay and benefits upon her signifying her attempt to return or when her need for reasonable accommodation ceases.

The IPAA sets forth an extensive list of possible accommodations for pregnant employees including (without limitation): more frequent or longer bathroom breaks; breaks for increased water intake and periodic rest; private non bathroom space for expressing breastmilk and breast feeding; feeding; assistance with manual labor; light duty; temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position; provision of an accessible worksite; acquisition or modification of equipment; job restructuring; part-time or modified work schedules; appropriate adjustment or modifications of examinations, training materials, or policies; reassignment to a vacant position; time off to recover from conditions related to childbirth; and leave necessitated by pregnancy, childbirth, or medical or common conditions resulting from pregnancy or childbirth.  Prior to the IPAA, employees affected by pregnancy would not otherwise be entitled to many of the statutes list of possible accommodations.

The IPAA permits an employer to deny a request for pregnancy accommodations only where granting it would present an undue hardship.  To succeed with the undue hardship defense under the IPAA, an employer must demonstrate that the nature and cost of the accommodation, the overall financial resources and size of the employer, the type of operations the employer is engaged in, and the impact the accommodation would have upon overall operations are such that the accommodations substantially impacts the ordinary operations of the business.  Significantly, the IPAA provides for a rebuttable presumption that an accommodation will not impose an undue hardship if the employer provides or must provide a similar accommodation to non-pregnant employees otherwise entitled to an accommodation.

Similar to the Americans with Disability Act, the IPAA mandates that the employee and employer engage in an “interactive process”, which requires, at a minimum, that the employer and employee “engage in a timely, good faith, meaningful exchange to determine the effective reasonable accommodation.”

We help businesses navigate the complications and confusing interactive process to ensure compliance with the IPAA when dealing with employees affected by pregnancy, childbirth or medical or common conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.

If you have any questions in this area, please contact:

Mitchell S. Chaban at:

mchaban@lgattorneys.com or 312-368-0100.