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New Rights for Employees Disabled By Pregnancy Bring New Obligations for Employers

September 5, 2013

By: Melissa Calhoon Jones

Starting October 1, 2013, Maryland employers with at least 15 employees are required to provide reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities that are caused or contributed to by pregnancy.  In addition, covered employers are also required to provide employees with information about their rights, in the form of posted notices and written handbook policies, by that date.  These requirements arise from a new law signed by Governor O’Malley during the 2013 legislative session (H.B. 804), which amends the Maryland Human Relations Act.  Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights under the new law.

Accommodation may include the following temporary changes in status:  changes to duties or hours, relocation of work area, provision of mechanical or electronic aids, transfer to a less strenuous or less hazardous position, and leave.  Employers are required to engage in an interactive process with employees to determine appropriate accommodations.  Employees may be required to provide certification that a requested accommodation is medically advisable only to the extent that such certification is required in connection with temporary disabilities that are unrelated to pregnancy.

Employers who are accustomed to providing leave under the Family Medical Leave Act should note that the new law does not contain any restrictions, other than medical advisability, for the duration of a leave of absence.  Also, unlike the Americans with Disabilities Act, this new law specifically requires temporary job restructuring as an accommodation.

For more information about employer obligations under this new law or for assistance in preparing a written policy describing these new employee rights, please contact Melissa Jones.

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