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Connecticut’s “Reasonable Leave of Absence” for Disability Resulting from Pregnancy

Posted in Discrimination & Harassment, Highlight, Laws and Regulations, Uncategorized

Last week, Attorney Robin Shea of Employment & Labor Insider proposed 10 rules of etiquette that “will save you from a pregnancy discrimination suit”.  Rule No. 1? Pregnancy is always good news.  Always. Always. Always.

If you haven’t read it, I’ll wait.

There are lots of rules regarding pregnancy that may come into play including FMLA, CTFMLA and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

But one rule in Connecticut that is often overlooked is found in Conn. Gen. Stat. 46a-60(a)(7).  The first part of this rule is fairly obvious; its illegal to fire someone because she’s pregnant. (If it’s not obvious, we should talk.)

But there are several other subsections that are not as well known. For today’s post, let’s focus on subsection (B) which states that an employer cannot  “refuse to grant to that employee a reasonable leave of absence for disability resulting from her pregnancy.”

Two things of note: First, this refers to “disability resulting from” pregnancy, not pregnancy itself.  So, if an employee is having a difficult pregnancy and is confined to bedrest, that’s the type of situation we are probably most concerned with because it would be viewed as a  “disability.” 

Second, what does a “reasonable leave of absence” mean? And isn’t this covered by FMLA? Well, not necessarily.  FMLA (and Connecticut’s equivalent) only cover employers who have 50 or more employees and even then, only cover employees who otherwise meet certain qualifications.  This rule covers all employers who have three or more employees and covers all pregnant employees.  

Can this “reasonable leave” run concurrently to FMLA, if eligible? Probably, though there isn’t much out there on the topic. A recent unpublished Superior Court case, Kenney v. DHMAS (Casemaker registration required), suggested that an employee could not make a claim under this section where the employee failed to provide the requisite documentation under FMLA.   

And what is “reasonable”? That too will probably have to be a figured out on a case-by-case basis. The Connecticut Supreme and Appellate Courts have yet to flesh that out.

For now, just know that when dealing with pregnant employees, there are more laws to consider than just FMLA.  And check with your trusted counsel to make sure you aren’t inadvertantly violating one of those rules.