Happy New Year! In a sign that some things are looking up, the TN legislature passed SB 2520, the Tennessee Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which became effective January 1, 2021. This Act mirrors much of the federal case law that has developed in the wake of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 and US Supreme Court cases that recognized certain accommodations for pregnant workers. We won’t dwell on how long it took TN to catch up from 1978 to 2020.
This law sets a presumption that any reasonable accommodations provided for employees with medical conditions be extended to employees who are pregnant. It also establishes guidelines for employers and employees on how to navigate pregnancy in the workplace.
The legislation guarantees that if a pregnant woman talks with her doctor and needs a temporary reasonable accommodation to remain healthy and working, she will receive that accommodation unless it would be a hardship on the business. Examples of accommodations include a stool to sit on, extra restroom breaks, temporary limits on lifting, or even the availability of water. Increased access to water, reduced exposure to chemicals, decreased standing requirements and other reasonable accommodations will lessen a mother’s risk of going into early labor, according to expert testimony heard in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee last year.