Another Option for Victims of Pregnancy Discrimination: The Updates to the Illinois Human Rights Act

Another Option for Victims of Pregnancy Discrimination: The Updates to the Illinois Human Rights Act

In January 2015, the Illinois legislature updated the Illinois Human Rights Act (“the Act”) to provide much greater protection to women facing discrimination as a result of their pregnancy. The updates to the Act cover a broad range of individuals including women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or medical or common conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.[1] In addition, the Act covers job applicants, part-time employees, full-time employees, and probationary employees.[2]

Under the update, an employer cannot make an adverse employment decision as a result of the individual’s pregnancy (including hiring, firing, promotion, selection for training, etc.). [3] Additionally, the employer has an obligation to make “reasonable accommodations” for the employee (so long as, if requested, the employee submits the necessary documentation to the employer). [4] “Reasonable accommodations” can include frequent or longer bathroom breaks, breaks for increased water, breaks for periodic rest, private space for expressing breast-milk, assistance with manual labor, temporary transfer to a less hazardous position, etc. [5] In addition, the employer cannot force a pregnant employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided to the employee.[6]

It is the duty of the employer to show that it is an “undue hardship” to make these accommodations.[7] “Undue hardship” does not mean that it is merely inconvenient for the employer; the employer must be able to demonstrate the accommodation could be prohibitively costly or would create a disruptive effect if the accommodation is given to the employee.[8] If the employer is already providing or has provided a similar accommodation to a similarly situated employee, there may be a presumption that the accommodation does not create an “undue hardship” to the employer.[9]

The Act has taken a new and broad stance on what constitutes discrimination on the basis of pregnancy. If you believe you may have been discriminated against or are actively being discriminated against on the basis of your pregnancy, feel free to contact the Law Offices of Fern Trevino to schedule a consultation.


[1] 775 ILCS 5/2-102(I)

[2] 775 ILCS 5/2-102(J)(1)

[3] 775 ILCS 5/2-102(I)

[4] 775 ILCS 5/2-102(J)(1)

[5] 775 ILCS 5/2-201(J)(4)

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

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