Last month, Governor Henry McMaster signed into law the South Carolina Pregnancy Accommodations Act. The law, which is the first such measure passed in the South, is intended to protect and assist working women through pregnancy and childbirth. While much of the law tracks existing federal protections under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, and other statutes, several of its provisions may requires employers to take steps that go beyond current law.
The new state law only applies to employers with 15 or more employees. Unlike federal law, it requires accommodations for pregnancy, even in situations where the request does not relate to a medical complication that rises to the level of an ADA disability. For example, employers are required to provide extended breaks, allow pregnant employees access to food and drink, and provide modified work schedules. Employees cannot be forced to take leave when an alternate accommodation would address their needs. Like the ADA, only reasonable accommodations are required, meaning that employers can reject the requests if they present an undue hardship.
As with current federal law, if the employer offers a light duty program, it cannot restrict participation to exclude pregnant workers. Once the employee delivers and returns to work, she must be provided an appropriate, private area for lactation. All of these requirements provide South Carolina employees with an additional means for recovery in addition to existing federal protections.
The new South Carolina law takes immediate effect. All new hires must be given written notice of the their rights under the law. By September 14, 2018, covered employers must provide this notice to all existing employees, and they must post notice of these rights along with other employment legal notices.