As part of the new Virginia Values Act, a new Virginia Code section extends discrimination protections to pregnant employees. The law applies to employers with 5 or more employees and prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or “related medical conditions” including lactation. It applies to job applicants as well as employees. The new statute can be found at https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/2.2-3909/.
A key provision of this law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth or the related medical conditions. A “reasonable” accommodation is one which does not impose an undue hardship on an employer. The statute gives several examples of reasonable accommodations, including a modified work schedule. If an employee requests an accommodation, an employer must engage in an “interactive process” with the employee to determine if the request is reasonable.
Another important provision is contained in subsection D of the statute, which provides:
D. An employer shall post in a conspicuous location and include in any employee handbook information concerning an employee's rights to reasonable accommodation for known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Such information shall also be directly provided to (i) new employees upon commencement of their employment and (ii) any employee within 10 days of such employee's providing notice to the employer that she is pregnant.
Employers covered by this law must inform employees of the law’s requirements, including the posting and handbook mandates, by October 29, 2020. Providing the employee handbook with the required information to new employees should satisfy the requirement to notify all new employees. Although arguably the handbook language would satisfy the requirement to provide the information to pregnant employees, it would be prudent to remind a pregnant employee of the law’s provisions.
Feel free to contact us if you have questions about this matter.