Pregnancy Accommodation Handbook Statement: Illinois

Author: Amy E. Mendenhall, Marissa L. Dragoo, Corinn Jackson, and Judith A. Paulson, Littler

When to Include This Statement

Illinois employers should include this statement in their handbook to educate employees about the availability of reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth and related conditions and to demonstrate compliance with Illinois law.

Customizable Handbook Statement

Pregnancy Accommodation

Employees and applicants for employment may request a reasonable accommodation for pregnancy, childbirth or related medical or common conditions to enable them to perform the essential functions of their job. In accordance with the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA), a reasonable accommodation will be provided unless the accommodation will impose an undue hardship on the company's business operations.

Reasonable accommodations may include but are not limited to: modifications or adjustments to the job application process; more frequent or longer bathroom, water or rest breaks; assistance with manual labor; light duty; temporary transfer to a less-strenuous or -hazardous position; acquisition or modification of equipment; reassignment to a vacant position; private, non-restroom space for expressing breast milk and breastfeeding; job restructuring; a part-time or modified work schedule; appropriate adjustment to or modification of examinations, training materials or policies; seating; an accessible worksite; and time off to recover from conditions related to childbirth, or a leave of absence necessitated by pregnancy, childbirth or medical or common conditions resulting from pregnancy or childbirth.

Employees who take leave as an accommodation under this policy will be reinstated to their original job or to an equivalent position with equivalent pay, seniority, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment upon their notification to the Company of their intent to return to work or when the employee's need for a reasonable accommodation ends. Reinstatement is not required, however, if an undue hardship would result to the company's business operations.

When an employee is provided with a leave of absence as a reasonable accommodation and the need for time off is foreseeable, the employee must provide prior notice of the need for leave in a manner that is reasonable and practicable. When the need for time off or leave is foreseeable based on planned medical treatment or supervision, the employee must also make a reasonable effort to schedule the treatment or supervision in a manner that does not unduly disrupt company operations, subject to the approval of the employee's health care provider. If the need for leave is not foreseeable or expected, the employee must provide notice to the Company as soon as possible and practical and in a manner that is reasonable and practicable.

The Company may request certain documents from an employee or applicant's health care provider regarding the need for an accommodation. It is the employee's or applicant's duty to provide the requested documentation to the Company.

The Company will not deny employment opportunities or take adverse employment actions against employees or otherwise qualified applicants for employment based on the need to make such reasonable accommodations, nor will the Company retaliate against applicants or employees who request, use or attempt to use accommodations or otherwise exercise their rights under the IHRA.

Employees who have questions about this policy or who wish to request a reasonable accommodation under this policy should contact their Human Resources representative [or insert name/contact details for appropriate company representative or department].

Guidance for Employers

  • The Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to a pregnant employee or job applicant affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical or common conditions upon the individual's request for such accommodations.
  • Regulations under the IHRA define "common condition related to pregnancy or childbirth" as a condition that commonly develops as a result of pregnancy or childbirth or the physiological changes or processes that accompany pregnancy or childbirth (e.g., backaches, cramping, headaches, morning sickness or nausea, frequent urination, sleeplessness, fatigue, lifting impairments, physical imbalance, swollen ankles, feet or fingers and lactation). The regulations define "medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth" as a physical or mental impairment, condition, feature or attribute that develops as a result of or in conjunction with pregnancy or childbirth (e.g., gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, post-partum depression, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, hypothyroidism and toxoplasmosis). Medical conditions need not constitute a disability within the meaning of the IHRA and can be transitory in nature.
  • Employers must engage in a timely, good-faith and meaningful exchange with employees and job applicants to determine effective reasonable accommodations. An employer's undue delay in responding to a reasonable accommodation request may be deemed to be a failure to provide a reasonable accommodation.
  • "Reasonable accommodations" are reasonable modifications or adjustments to the job application process or work environment, including, but not limited to:
    • More frequent or longer bathroom breaks, breaks for increased water intake and periodic rest breaks;
    • Private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk and breastfeeding;
    • Suitable seating;
    • Assistance with manual labor;
    • Light duty;
    • Temporary transfer to a less-strenuous or -hazardous position;
    • An accessible worksite;
    • Acquisition or modification of equipment;
    • Job restructuring;
    • Part-time or modified work schedule;
    • Appropriate adjustment or modification of examinations, training materials or policies;
    • Reassignment to a vacant position;
    • Time off to recover from conditions related to childbirth; or
    • Leave of absence necessitated by pregnancy, childbirth or medical or common conditions resulting from pregnancy or childbirth.
  • Regulations under the IHRA establish that, if an employer determines that the requested accommodation will impose an undue hardship, then the employer should explore whether there are any less restrictive alternative accommodations including a temporary transfer, reassignment or job restructuring. Although an employer may not require a job applicant or employee to accept an alternative accommodation, an applicant or employee's refusal to accept an alternative accommodation may signify that she is not participating in good faith in the interactive process, if the alternative accommodation:
    • Would adequately accommodate the job applicant's or employee's pregnancy condition;
    • Would allow the job applicant or employee to perform her current position without a change in the job applicant's employee's earnings or benefits, or the alternative accommodation would have the same or a lesser impact upon the job applicant's or employee's earnings or benefits as the accommodation requested by the employee;
    • Would impose a lesser disruption to the operations of the employer; and
    • Is approved by the job applicant's or employee's health care provider, or if otherwise within the restrictions or recommendations of the employee's health care provider.
  • Any employee request to modify a previous reasonable accommodation request should be considered a new or independent request.
  • When an employee is transferred as a reasonable accommodation and the rate of pay is higher in the new position, the employer must pay the higher rate. If, however, the rate of pay in the new position is lower, the employer may pay the lower rate, but must show that the change in pay is justified and consistent with change in job duties, schedule or employment status. An employer may not reduce fringe benefits unless the employer can prove an undue hardship.
  • In the event that a requested accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer after the employer and job applicant or employee had engaged in the interactive process, a job applicant or employee may provide her own accommodation at her own expense, provided that the accommodation does not unduly disrupt the ordinary conduct of the employer's business.
  • Employers are not required to create additional job positions that the employer would not otherwise have created, unless the employer does so or would do so for other classes of employees who need an accommodation.
  • Employers are not required to provide any accommodation that would cause an undue hardship to its business operations. However, Illinois law specifically says that the fact that an employer provides or would be required to provide a similar accommodation to similarly situated employees creates a presumption that the accommodation does not impose an undue hardship on the employer. It is the employer's burden to provide evidence to overcome that presumption.
  • To show that an accommodation imposes an "undue hardship" on the ordinary operation of the business, employers must demonstrate that the accommodation is prohibitively expensive or disruptive when considered in light of the following factors:
    • The nature and cost of the accommodation needed;
    • The overall financial resources of the facility or facilities involved in the provision of the reasonable accommodation, the number of persons employed at the facility, the effect on expenses and resources or the impact otherwise of the accommodation upon the operations of the facility;
    • The overall financial resources of the employer, the overall size of the business of the employer with respect to the number of its employees and the number, type and location of its facilities; and
    • The type of operation or operations of the employer, including the composition, structure and functions of the workforce of the employer and the geographic separateness and administrative or fiscal relationship to the employer of the facility or facilities in question.
  • Employers are prohibited from compelling a pregnant employee to accept accommodations or to take leave as a result of her pregnancy.
  • If leave is a reasonable accommodation, an employer covered under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may be able to count this leave time against an employee's FMLA leave entitlement. However, an employer must be cautious in designating a leave of absence as FMLA leave, as a healthy, non-disabling pregnancy is not a qualifying reason for leave under the FMLA.
  • An employee who takes pregnancy-related protected time off or a leave of absence must be reinstated to her original job or an equivalent position upon her return. The pay and benefits should be equivalent to what the employee was receiving as of the date the employee went on leave. Employers are not required to provide paid leave unless the employer is required by other laws or does so for other classes of employees. Employers are also not required to provide any paid time off benefits that would have otherwise accrued during the leave of absence.
  • Employees must give their employer prior notice of expected time off that is foreseeable, unless the employer would not require prior notice from other classes of employees. If the time off or leave is based on a foreseeable medical treatment, the job applicant or employee must (subject to the approval of her healthcare provider) make a reasonable effort to schedule the treatment so that it does not unduly disrupt the operations. If the time off is not foreseeable, the employee or applicant must provide notice to the employer as soon as possible.
  • Employers may request that a pregnant employee provide documentation from her health care provider supporting the need for the requested reasonable accommodation(s), as long as the employer has a policy of requesting documentation from nonpregnant employees for conditions related to disability, the request is job-related and consistent with business necessity and the information sought is not known by or readily apparent to the employer. The requested medical certification may include only:
    • A description of the medically advisable accommodation;
    • Justification for the requested accommodation;
    • The date the accommodation became medically advisable; and
    • The probable duration of the need for the accommodation.
  • If the employee needs the reasonable accommodation beyond the probable duration identified by the job applicant's or employee's healthcare provider, the employer may request additional information from the job applicant's or employee's health care provider. While awaiting the additional documentation, the employer must continue to accommodate the applicant or employee.
  • Download the Pregnancy Fairness poster, required to be posted in a conspicuous location. Employers must also include in any employee handbook information concerning an employee's rights under the law regarding reasonable accommodation, including the right to be free from unlawful discrimination and the right to reasonable accommodation, as well as information regarding filing a charge for alleged violations of the law. An employer's handbook that contains the same information as set forth in the Department's notice will be sufficient to comply with this subsection, though employers may choose to provide additional information.
  • Train human resources, supervisors and managers on the procedures for identifying and responding to reasonable accommodation requests from pregnant employees and/or applicants for employment and how to properly document such requests.

Additional Resources

Family and Medical Leave Handbook Statement: Federal