Sep 04, 2014

States and Localities: Update On Discrimination and Leave Laws

Massachusetts Enacts Domestic Violence Leave Law

On August 8, 2014, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed an “Act Relative to Domestic Violence” into law, that became effective immediately and requires all private and public employers with 50 or more employees to grant up to 15 days of unpaid leave in any 12-month period to an employee if the employee or a covered family member is a victim of abusive behavior. “Abusive behavior” is defined broadly under the Act to include domestic violence, criminal stalking, threats and intimidation, or physical and sexual assault. In order to qualify for leave, the employee must be using the leave to address issues directly related to the abusive behavior (such as seeking medical attention, counseling, housing, or legal assistance). Under the law, employees must exhaust all available vacation, sick, or other leave time prior to taking domestic violence leave. Employees who utilize domestic violence leave must provide advance notice to their employers (unless there is a threat of imminent danger), and such employees must be reinstated to their original position or an equivalent position upon their return to work. Covered employers must notify their employees about the new law.

Eugene, Oregon Enacts Paid Sick Leave Law

On July 28, 2014, the City Council of Eugene, Oregon passed a mandatory paid sick leave law that provides for the accrual of paid sick time for employees working within the Eugene, Oregon city limits. The law requires Eugene employers to provide their employees with one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours of paid sick leave per year. The law applies to all employers in Eugene, Oregon, as well as businesses outside the city’s limits who have employees working at least six weeks per year in the city. However, Lane County, in which Eugene is located, preemptively passed three ordinances meant to limit or prevent Eugene’s paid sick leave law from taking effect. The conflict between Lane County’s and the City of Eugene’s ordinances may result in a legal dispute regarding which ordinances will apply. If the Eugene, Oregon ordinance goes into effect as planned, eligible employees will begin to accrue paid sick leave on July 1, 2015.

Illinois Enacts Pregnancy Discrimination Amendments to the Human Rights Act 

On August 25, 2014, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into law amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act (the “Act”), that provide greater protection from discrimination for pregnant employees. The Act requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant applicants and employees if requested unless the employer can demonstrate that providing the requested accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer’s business. The amendments to the Act set forth examples of certain reasonable accommodations that may be necessary for pregnant employees such as light duty assignments, additional rest breaks, modified work schedules, and more frequent bathroom breaks. An employer cannot require a pregnant employee to take leave as a reasonable accommodation if there is another reasonable accommodation available. The pregnancy discrimination amendments apply to any employer with one or more employees, and covered employers must notify applicants and employees of their rights by posting a notice prepared by the Illinois Department of Human Rights and including the notice in the employer’s handbook. The pregnancy discrimination amendments go into effect on January 1, 2015.

If you have any questions regarding these issues, please contact your Labor and Employment counsel at Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP.

This client alert is intended to inform clients and other interested parties about legal matters of current interest and is not intended as legal advice.

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