Rhode Island Maternity and Pregnancy laws & HR compliance analysis

Rhode Island Maternity and Pregnancy: What you need to know

The Rhode Island Fair Employment Practices Act prohibits employment practices that discriminate on the basis of sex, including pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless based on a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ).
The law covers private employers with four or more employees and all state employers (RI Gen. Laws Sec. 28-5-1 et seq.).
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It is an unlawful employment practice for an employer to refuse to reasonably accommodate an employee’s or prospective employee’s condition related to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. The duty to accommodate extends to an employee’s need to express breast milk for a nursing child, if the employee requests such an accommodation.
Accommodation is required unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would pose an undue hardship on the employer’s program, enterprise, or business. An accommodation would present an undue hardship if it required significant difficulty or expense to the employer. If the employer provides a similar accommodation to other classes of employees (e.g., providing light duty to employees who experienced a workers’ compensation injury), it will be very difficult for the employer to prove that the accommodation imposes an undue hardship for the employer.
An employer may not require an employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided, nor may it deny employment opportunities to an employee or prospective employee, if the denial is based on the refusal of the employer to reasonably accommodate pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.
Forms of accommodation. Reasonable accommodations include, but are not ...

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