Pregnancy and Parenting Leave and Pregnancy Accommodation Required

03/17/2014 / Chris Harristhal

H.F. 2371‎ would dramatically expand the rights and protections afforded employees under state law who take pregnancy leave. The bill would change from 6 weeks to 12 weeks the amount of time available for leave available under state law for pregnancy, birth or adoption of a child. However, federal law already provides 12 weeks of leave for employers covered by the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) (i.e. employers with at least 50 employees). The state statute would expand the right to a full 12 weeks of leave to employees of smaller employers.

Additionally, and perhaps more substantially, the bill would obligate employers to provide “reasonable accommodation” to employees for conditions related to pregnancy, childbirth and related health conditions if requested by the employee. The statute defines “reasonable accommodation” to include seating, frequent restroom breaks and limits to heavy lifting. The “reasonable accommodation” obligation already applies to employees who are disabled under the Minnesota Human Rights Act by virtue of a condition related to pregnancy, but the condition must independently rise to the level of a disability under the law. This bill would lower the bar with regard to the level of impairment that the employee must experience in order to be afforded the right to an accommodation. Any condition related to pregnancy or childbirth could trigger the obligation to accommodate even if the employee is not substantially impaired. 

The duty to accommodate would include temporary transfers to less strenuous or hazardous positions for the duration of the pregnancy upon certification of a “medical necessity” from a physician. The bill currently states that an employer would not be required to create “additional employment” that the employer would not otherwise have created. Presumably, this would preclude the employer from being required to establish a new position for the employee seeking a transfer to a less strenuous position. The companion Senate bill is S.F. 1956.