Pregnant woman at workThe South Carolina Pregnancy Accommodations Act, found here, was signed into law on Friday, May 18, 2018. The Act amends the South Carolina Human Affairs Law. In passing the legislation, the General Assembly stated,

It is the intent of the General Assembly by this act to combat pregnancy discrimination, promote public health, and ensure full and equal participation for women in the labor force by requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees for medical needs arising from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Current workplace laws are inadequate to protect pregnant women from being forced out or fired when they need a simple, reasonable accommodation in order to stay on the job. Many pregnant women are single mothers or the primary breadwinners for their families; if they lose their jobs then the whole family will suffer. This is not an outcome that families can afford in today’s difficult economy.

What the Act requires:

  • The Act defines “sex” to include pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, lactation, and women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
  • The Act requires employers to treat any of these situations the same as it would any other medical condition or accommodation and all employment-related purposes, including the receipt of benefits.
  • The Act does not require an employee to take leave where an accommodation would do or accept any accommodation if the applicant or employee would otherwise perform the essential functions of the job without an accommodation.
  • The Act also requires employers to post notice of the right to be free from discrimination for medical needs arising from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, and also to provide written notice of this information to all new employees at the commencement of employment and to existing employees within one hundred twenty days of May 18, 2018.

The Act provided examples of reasonable accommodation:

(1) making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities and individuals with medical needs arising from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions provided the employer shall not be required to construct a permanent, dedicated space for expressing milk; however, nothing in this section exempts an employer from providing other reasonable accommodations; and

(2)(a) for individuals with disabilities: job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position, acquisition or modification of equipment or devices, appropriate adjustment or modifications of examinations, training materials or policies, the provision of qualified readers or interpreters, and other similar accommodations; or

(b) for individuals with medical needs arising from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions providing more frequent or longer break periods; providing more frequent bathroom breaks; providing a private place, other than a bathroom stall for the purpose of expressing milk; modifying food or drink policy; providing seating or allowing the employee to sit more frequently if the job requires the employee to stand; providing assistance with manual labor and limits on lifting; temporarily transferring the employee to a less strenuous or hazardous vacant position, if qualified; providing job restructuring or light duty, if available; acquiring or modifying equipment or devices necessary for performing essential job functions; modifying work schedules; however, the employer is not required to do the following, unless the employer does or would do so for other employees or classes of employees that need a reasonable accommodation:

(i) hire new employees that the employer would not have otherwise hired

(ii) discharge an employee, transfer another employee with more seniority, or promote another employee who is not qualified to perform the new job

(iii) create a new position, including a light duty position for the employee, unless a light duty position would be provided for another equivalent employee

(iv) compensate an employee for more frequent or longer break periods, unless the employee uses a break period which would otherwise be compensated

Most of the requirements already apply to employers under the federal Pregnancy Nondiscrimination Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act as interpreted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and to those employers subject to the Affordable Care Act and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), but the Act does go beyond those bodies of law in detail and to provide specific examples of what is required.

The Act also states that employers may choose whether their healthcare plan will pay for abortions but that no employer shall be required to design its healthcare plan to include payment for an abortion absent situations where the mother would be endangered if the fetus was carried to term.

History of Legislation: The Act was introduced to the House in 2017 by Representatives Bernstein, Delleney, Ridgeway, King, Whipper, Smith and Knight and passed unanimously on May 10, 2018.  It was introduced into the Senate on April 5, 2017 and passed unanimously on May 8, 2018.  It was passed by the General Assembly on May 10, 2018.  South Carolina’s Women’s Rights & Employment Network provides a great summary on line here.