Governor Hickenlooper earlier this week signed a bill passed by the Colorado General Assembly that requires Colorado employers to provide reasonable workplace accommodations for applicants and employees who have needs due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. The new law extends protections beyond those in the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The law takes effect on August 10.

Starting then, Colorado will require accommodation of pregnancy-related conditions, and it will be an unfair employment practice not to provide reasonable accommodations to allow an applicant or employee to perform the essential functions of her position. Under the bill, reasonable accommodations include:

  • more frequent or longer break periods;

  • more frequent restroom, food, and water breaks;

  • acquisition or modification of equipment or seating;

  • limitations for lifting; and

  • temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position if available, with return to the current position after pregnancy.

Conversely, an employer is not required to:

  • hire new employees that it would not have otherwise have hired;

  • discharge an employee, transfer another employee with more seniority, or promote another employee who is not qualified to perform the new job;

  • create a new position for the employee; or

  • provide the employee with paid leave beyond that which is provided to a similarly-situated employee.

Like other states that have passed similar laws, the Colorado law allows for exceptions to the mandate if the accommodations will cause an undue hardship to the employer. Factors considered in assessing an employer’s claim of undue hardship include:

  • the nature and cost of the accommodation;

  • the overall financial resources of the employer;

  • the size of the employer’s business with respect to the number of employees and the number, type, and location of the available facilities; and

  • the accommodation’s effect on expenses and resources or its effect upon the operations of the employer.

Employers must provide written notice of the law’s provisions to new employees at the start of employment and to existing employees within 120 days of the August 10 effective date.

Ballard Spahr’s Colorado-based Labor and Employment Group attorneys provide counsel and representation to employers on the full range of labor and employment issues, including review of antidiscrimination and other policies and practices, and defend against claims brought under federal, state, and local discrimination and related laws.

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