by Micah Dawson
Colorado’s new law requiring employers to engage in an interactive process to assess potential reasonable accommodations for applicants and employees with conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth will go into effect on August 10.
The new law, House Bill 16-1438, stipulates that employers must engage in the interactive process, provide reasonable accommodations for eligible individuals, prohibit retaliation against employees and applicants who request or use a pregnancy-related accommodation, and provide notice of employees’ rights under the law.
The new law makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer to fail to provide a reasonable accommodation to a job applicant or an employee with health conditions related to pregnancy or physical recovery from childbirth, absent an undue hardship on the employer. Also, employers may not deny employment opportunities based on the need to provide a pregnancy-related reasonable accommodation.
Employers will need to engage in a “timely, good-faith, and interactive process” with the applicant or employee to identify reasonable accommodations. Examples of reasonable accommodations include but are not limited to:
- More frequent or longer restroom, food, and water breaks;
- Obtaining or modifying equipment or seating;
- Temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position, if available (with return to the current position after pregnancy);
- Light duty, if available;
- Job restructuring;
- Limited lifting requirements;
- Assistance with manual labor; and
- Modified work schedules.
Employers need to be sure to document their good-faith efforts to identify and provide reasonable pregnancy-related accommodations, which can negate punitive damages if an individual sues for failure to accommodate. The law allows employers to require the applicant or employee to provide a note from her healthcare provider stating the need for a reasonable accommodation.
Under the new law, employers may not force an applicant or employee affected by pregnancy-related conditions to accept an accommodation that she hasn’t requested or that isn’t necessary to perform her job’s essential functions. Similarly, employers may not require a pregnant employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation may be provided.
For more information on Colorado’s new pregnancy accommodation law, see the June issue of Colorado Employment Law Letter.