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7-2-2015 Nebraska Law Creates Additional Protections for Pregnant and Nursing Employees

Nebraska has joined a growing number of states recognizing protections for pregnant individuals. On April 13, 2015, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts signed into law LB 627, the Nebraska Pregnant Workers Fairness Bill, a legislative measure designed to safeguard pregnant and nursing mothers from workplace discrimination. LB 627 amends the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act ("NFEPA"), which prohibits Nebraska employers from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, disability, and marital status. The NFEPA generally applies to private employers with 15 or more employees, as well as state and local government subdivisions of any size. With the enactment of LB 627, the NFEPA makes it unlawful for an employer to:

Discriminate against an individual who is pregnant, who has given birth, or who has a related medical condition in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.

 

In addition to prohibiting pregnancy discrimination, LB 627 requires employers to make "reasonable accommodations" for pregnant individuals. These "reasonable accommodations" include: (1) equipment for sitting; (2) more frequent or longer breaks; (3) periodic rest; (4) assistance with manual labor; (5) job restructuring; (6) light-duty assignments; (7) modified work schedules; (8) temporary transfers to less strenuous or hazardous work; (9) time off to recover from childbirth; and (10) break time and appropriate facilities for breast-feeding or expressing breast milk.

Employers are not required, however, to provide accommodations to the individual if the request would impose an undue hardship on the employer. Factors to be considered in determining whether an accommodation would pose an undue hardship include the nature and cost of the accommodation, the financial resources of the employer, and the overall size of the business with respect to its number of employees and the type of facilities.

Although pregnant individuals are entitled to certain protections under federal laws, including the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, LB 627 expands those protections for individuals in Nebraska by including break time and facilities for expressing breast milk in the definition of "reasonable accommodations."

In addition, LB 627 makes it a discriminatory practice to require a pregnant employee to take leave under any law or policy of the employer if another reasonable accommodation exists.

Finally, taking adverse action against an employee for requesting or using a reasonable accommodation related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition is a discriminatory practice under the bill. The law will take effect in September 2015, although an exact date is to be determined.

Fraser Stryker is a leader in labor and employment law. Attorneys in the Firm's Labor and Employment Law Practice Group advise employers on current legal issues as well as provide proactive solutions to avoid legal issues which may arise in the future. For more information on the EEOC's proposed rule regarding the application of the ADA to employer-sponsored wellness programs, please contact an attorney in the Labor and Employment Law Practice Group, Pat Barrett, Kate Dittrick, Sarah (Sally) McGill, Rhianna Kittrell, or Emily Langdon.