Photo courtesy of Oregon State University

On May 17, 2013, Governor Martin O’Malley signed into law HB 804, which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation of disabilities due to pregnancy.

Amending Md. State Govt. Code Sec. 20-601, the new law provides protections to employees who have a disability caused, or contributed to, by pregnancy. If an employee requests a reasonable accommodation for such a disability, the employer must explore with the pregnant employee certain means of reasonable accommodation, such as:

» Transferring the employee to a less strenuous or less hazardous position for a period of time up to the duration of the employee’s pregnancy, under certain very specific conditions;
» Changing the employee’s job duties;
» Changing the employee’s work hours;
» Relocating the employee’s work area;
» Providing mechanical or electrical aids; or
» Providing leave.

As with any reasonable accommodation request, the proposed accommodation may not impose an undue hardship on the employer. Also, the employer may require the employee to provide a certification from her health care provider concerning the medical advisability of a reasonable accommodation — but only to the same extent that a certification is required for other temporary disabilities.

Employers are required to post in a conspicuous location — and to include in any employee handbook — information concerning an employee’s rights to reasonable accommodation and leave for a disability caused, or contributed to, by pregnancy.

The new law contains a no-retaliation provision, as well.

Pregnancy is obviously temporary in nature, and the disabilities that pregnancy commonly causes or contributes to are often temporary in nature. Temporary disabilities are not always covered by disability discrimination laws. This law should make clear that despite the temporary nature of the pregnancy or the disabilities related to it, employers still have a legal obligation to engage in the interactive process of reasonable accommodation. The employer who dismisses such a request for reasonable accommodation by claiming the temporary nature of the pregnancy or disability obviates the need for reasonable accommodation will clearly run afoul of this new law.

The law goes into effect on October 1, 2013.

Maryland Law HB 804