The South Carolina Pregnancy Accommodations Act (the “Act”), originally signed on May 17, 2018, imposes new accommodation requirements on employers of at least 15 or more employees. Covered employers will be required to provide accommodations for needs related to pregnancy, childbirth, or other related medical conditions, with additional notice and posting requirements. Although most of the provisions of the Act were effective immediately at time of signing, the effective date of the notice requirement was designated as September 14, 2018.
Reasonable accommodations. Unless the accommodation imposes an undue hardship on business operations, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees for pregnancy-related conditions. The Act provides examples of reasonable accommodations, including, but not limited to:
- Providing a private place other than a bathroom stall for the purpose of expressing breast milk;
- Providing seating, or allowing the employee to sit more frequently if job duties ordinarily require the employee to stand;
- Providing more frequent or longer break periods;
- Temporarily transferring the employee to a less strenuous position;
- Restructuring or modifying job responsibilities to light duty;
- Modifying work schedules.
The Act does not require employers to create new positions, compensate employees for more frequent or longer break periods, or hire new employees that the employer would not have otherwise hired.
Unlawful employment practices. Employers are not permitted to take adverse action against an employee who requests or uses a reasonable accommodation related to pregnancy, childbirth or other related medical conditions, nor can an employer require an employee to take leave if a reasonable accommodation can be provided instead. Finally, employers cannot require an employee or applicant to take an accommodation that the individual does not wish to accept, where the individual does not have a known limitation as a result of pregnancy or the accommodation is not necessary to perform the individual’s essential job duties.
New notice requirements. Employers are required to provide written notice of an employee/applicant’s rights under the Act. Such written notice must be distributed to all existing employees by September 14, 2018, and to all new employees at time of hire. The notice must also be conspicuously posted at the worksite in an area accessible to employees. The South Carolina Human Affairs Commission is expected to provide a sample notice for employer use.