The Tennessee Pregnant Workers Fairness Act was signed into law on June 22, 2020, and took effect on October 1, 2020. The Act requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations for medical needs related to pregnancy, childbirth, or other similar medical conditions. The Act applies to applicants and employees, and an employer must provide reasonable accommodations unless such accommodations would create an undue hardship on the employer. Under the Act, an undue hardship is an action requiring significant difficulty or expense.
An employer must provide reasonable accommodations, which may include:
- Providing more frequent, longer, or flexible breaks;
- Providing a private place, other than a bathroom stall, for expressing milk;
- Providing assistance with manual labor and lifting limits;
- Providing job restructuring for light-duty if available;
- Providing or modifying equipment;
- Adjusting work schedules; and
- Providing time for parental visits.
The Act identifies specific accommodations that an employer is not required to provide unless it would provide the accommodations to another employee or class of employees. Accommodations not required may include:
- Hiring new employees that an employer would otherwise not hire;
- Discharging an employee, transferring another employee with more seniority, or promoting an employee who is not qualified to perform the new job;
- Creating new positions, for example, light-duty positions;
- Compensating an employee for more frequent or longer breaks; and
- Constructing a dedicated place for expressing milk.
It is unlawful for an employer to fail or refuse to make reasonable accommodations for an applicant or employee for medical needs arising from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Additionally, an employer cannot require an employee to take leave under a leave law or policy if another reasonable accommodation can be provided to the employee for medical needs related to pregnancy or childbirth. Finally, an employer cannot take an adverse action against an employee for requesting an accommodation related to pregnancy.
An employer may require an employee requesting accommodations for medical needs arising from pregnancy or childbirth to provide medical certification from a healthcare professional. Medical certification is appropriate if the employee requests an accommodation related to the temporary transfer to a vacant position, job restructuring, light-duty, or an accommodation that requires time away from work. If the employee is making a good faith effort to obtain medical documentation, the employer must begin engaging in a good faith interactive process with the employee to determine if an accommodation can be provided that will not result in an undue hardship to the employer.
A person who is adversely affected by a violation of this Act may bring a civil action in chancery or circuit court in the jurisdiction where the alleged violation occurred. A court may issue back pay, compensatory damages, prejudgment interest, and attorney’s fees. A civil action must be brought within one year after the adverse action occurred.
For more information about employment discrimination, click here.