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Guidance Arrives On SC Pregnancy Accommodations Act

The South Carolina Pregnancy Accommodations Act (PAA) was signed into law by Governor McMaster on May 17, 2018. However, until recently, the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (SCHAC), whose job it is to oversee pregnancy-related employment discrimination claims, had not published guidance governing frequently asked questions and concerns on how the law is to be administered. As of this writing, the first guidance has appeared, which means that potential issues will in theory be able to be headed off and addressed without undue delay.

Who Does This Cover?

Not every law regulating conduct in the workplace will cover every employee. Most will exempt small businesses with less than 5, or less than 15 employees. The PAA covers any employer who is also subject to the South Carolina Human Affairs Law, meaning that any business with 14 or fewer employees is exempted, or any business whose employees work less than 20 calendar weeks per year. The PAA does cover entities like staffing agencies for temporary office workers and housekeeping personnel, assuming they fit the other criteria.

One fact that may also be useful to remember is that the SCHAC guidance explicitly uses gender neutral language, meaning that it includes transgender men under the umbrella of those who may be eligible for accommodations under the Act. The term used is “individuals who have recently given birth.” Thus, a transgender worker may not be excluded from accommodations by virtue of their gender presentation or identification, at least not under the PAA.

What Accommodations Are Available?

Pregnant people may require an array of accommodations. The PAA lists some examples, though the list is not intended to be exhaustive. Time off may be one granted accommodation, but changes on the job are much more common. Requests such as extended bathroom break times, lifting restrictions, and a private place to express milk if necessary may be among those asked for. Generally, any accommodation asked for by another employee for a non-pregnancy reason may in theory be on the table.

Be advised that, as under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), employers do not have to fulfill a request for accommodation that would constitute an undue hardship to them. An undue hardship is defined subjectively—that is, it will be different for each business—because it is defined as something that would cause the employer “significant difficulty or expense” in terms of resources (not necessarily money).

What may be unsustainable or too expensive for a 20-person company might be easily attainable by a Fortune 500 firm. If your request is denied as being an undue hardship, keep in mind the resources available to the company, and see if there is an alternative accommodation that might be reachable, or you may wind up concluding that the denial is unreasonable.

Seek Experienced Employment Law Assistance

Pregnancy is coming to be seen as a temporary disability. As such, pregnant people are entitled to accommodations so they can perform their jobs. If you have been denied accommodations during your pregnancy, contacting a lawyer can sometimes change that. Attorney A. Christopher Potts has years of experience in these types of cases, and can sit down with you to try and answer any questions you may have. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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