Twas the day before the night before Christmas
And all thru the law office
Not a creature was stirring
Except the employment lawyers reading the new Congressional Omnibus spending bill and looking for the employment law provisions tucked neatly inside.
In a parting gift for employers and employees, Congress passed a broad spending bill on Friday, December 23rd that contains two long-simmering pieces of legislation that have little to do with the budget, but everything to do with the workplaces. As of the time of this post, President Biden was expected to sign it later on Friday.
Fortunately for employers in Connecticut, many of these provisions already exist under state law. But for employers with employees in other jurisdictions in particular, these new laws will be important to follow in the new year.
Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
On page 4053 of the Omnibus bill, is the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. The bill makes it unlawful for employers to fail to make reasonable accommodations to the known limitations related to pregnancy, child-birth or related medical conditions, unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship. Employers are also required to use an interactive process. If that sounds familiar, it is; its the same standard that employers now follow when dealing with employees with disabilities.
The new law also prohibits employers from requiring employees to take paid or unpaid leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided and prohibits employers from taking action against an employee who requests such an accommodation. Retaliation is also prohibited as well.
Employers who are covered by Title VII will now be responsible for abiding by this new law. All the same remedies available to employees under Title VII will essentially be available to employees making these new claims.
Importantly, this law does not go into effect until 180 days after its signing – so around June 23, 2023.
Again, Connecticut already enacted similar provisions so there will be little change for employers here.
PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act
The Omnibus bill also contains the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (or PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act). While there are several provisions to it, in general, an employer will now need to provide a reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk, and a place, other than a bathroom, that is private that the employee can use to express breast milk.
The bill provides for an exemption for small employers (under 50 employees) if the requirements would impose an undue hardship on the employer.
These provisions go into effect immediately.
Again, Connecticut already has some of the broadest protections for nursing mothers in the nation so this law will not change much for employers here.
These provisions may get lost in the shuffle with year end vacations but employers should make sure to update policies and procedures to comply with these new laws.