Protecting Pregnancy: Colorado’s Recent Extension of the Anti-Discrimination Act

The Colorado legislature recently passed House Bill 16-1438 requiring Colorado employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees or applicants with conditions relating to pregnancy and childbirth. According to the legislature, the purpose of this law is to protect pregnant women from being terminated from employment when they need a simple, reasonable accommodation in order to stay employed. Effective August 10, 2016, it is an unfair employment practice to discriminate on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions.

House Bill 16-1438 is incorporated into the existing Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (the “Act”).  With limited exceptions for religious organizations and associations, the Act applies to all employers (even those who only have one employee), which is different than many federal anti-discrimination laws.  The Act extends protections to applicants for employment as well as employees. As with other forms of discrimination, an employer is prohibited from denying employment or taking adverse action against an employee who requests reasonable accommodations. Reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees may include, but are not limited to:

  • Purchasing or modifying equipment or seating;
  • Allowing more frequent or longer break periods and more frequent restroom, food, and water breaks;
  • Placing on light duty, limited lifting, or providing assistance with manual labor;
  • Modifying work schedules; and
  • Temporarily reassigning an employee to a less strenuous or hazardous position, if available, and returning to the current position after pregnancy.

If an employee requests an accommodation, the employer and employee are required to participate in an interactive process to identify potential reasonable accommodations. An employer may not be required to make accommodations for the pregnant employee if the accommodation poses an undue hardship for the employer or is unnecessary for the employee to perform the essential functions of the job.

Employers have until December 8, 2016 to provide current employees with written notice of their new rights. In addition, employers are required to provide written notice to all new hires at the start of their employment. Employers also must post a written notice in a conspicuous place in an area accessible to employees.

In order to prepare for the effective date of House Bill 16-1438, employers should update any handbooks, policies, and new applicant materials. Additionally, human resources personnel and supervisors should become familiar with this new anti-discrimination requirement.

If you have any questions on this topic or need assistance, please contact our Labor & Employment Law Practice Group. We encourage you to subscribe to our Labor & Employment E-Briefs to get the latest HR news, tips, and updates.