H514: NC Healthy Pregnancy Act. Latest Version



AN ACT addressing pregnancy‑related discrimination and reasonable accommodations in the workplace.

The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts:

SECTION 1.  The General Statutes are amended by adding a new Chapter to read:

Chapter 168B.

North Carolina Healthy Pregnancy Act.

§ 168B‑1.  Short title.

This Chapter shall be known and may be cited as the North Carolina Healthy Pregnancy Act.

§ 168B‑2.  Public policy.

It is the public policy of this State to protect and safeguard the right and opportunity of all persons to seek, obtain, and hold employment without discrimination or abridgement by employers on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition.

§ 168B‑3.  Definitions.

The following definitions apply in this Chapter:

(1)        Covered governmental entity. – Any State department, institution, agency, or any political subdivision of the State or any person that contracts with a State department, institution, agency, or political subdivision of the State for the delivery of public services, including education, health, social services, recreation, and rehabilitation.

(2)        Discriminatory practice. – Any practice prohibited by this Chapter.

(3)        Employer. – Any person employing 15 or more employees within the State.

(4)        Employment agency. – As defined in G.S. 168A‑3.

(5)        Labor organization. – As defined in G.S. 168A‑3.

(6)        Person. – As defined in G.S. 168A‑3.

(7)        Pregnancy or pregnant. – Includes pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, including lactation.

(8)        Reasonable accommodations. – All of the following:

a.         With regard to employment, making reasonable physical changes in the workplace, including all of the following:

1.         Making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by individuals with medical needs arising from pregnancy.

2.         Making reasonable changes in the duties of the job in question that would accommodate the known limitations of a pregnant person who is seeking or performing the job in question by enabling the person to satisfactorily perform the duties of that job; modifying work assignments; temporarily transferring the employee to a less strenuous or hazardous vacant position, if qualified; or a combination of these.

3.         Providing more frequent or longer break periods.

4.         Providing a private place, other than a bathroom stall, for the purpose of expressing milk.

5.         Modifying food and drink policies to enable access to food and drink and to permit meals and beverages at workstations.

6.         Providing seating or allowing the employee to sit more frequently if the job requires the employee to stand.

7.         Providing assistance with manual labor and limits on lifting.

8.         Temporarily transferring the employee to a less strenuous or hazardous vacant position, if qualified.

9.         Providing job restructuring or light duty, if available.

10.       Acquiring or modifying equipment or devices necessary for performing essential job functions.

11.       Modifying work schedules, including the option to work from home.

12.       Relocating workplace materials and equipment to make them more accessible.

13.       Adjusting uniforms or dress codes.

14.       Providing properly sized safety gear.

15.       Adjusting lighting and noise levels.

16.       Providing access to closer parking.

17.       Providing access to mobile assistance devices.

b.         The term reasonable accommodation does not require that an employer do any of the following:

1.         Hire one or more employees, other than the pregnant person, for the purpose, in whole or in part, of enabling the pregnant person to be employed.

2.         Reassign duties of the job in question to other employees without assigning to the pregnant employee duties that would compensate for those reassigned.

3.         Reassign duties of the job in question to one or more other employees where the reassignment would increase the skill, effort, or responsibility required of the other employee or employees from that required prior to the change in duties.

4.         Alter, modify, change, or deviate from bona fide seniority policies or practices.

5.         Provide accommodations of a personal nature, except under the same terms and conditions as such accommodations are provided to the employer's employees generally and as needed for lactation.

6.         Make any changes that would impose on the employer an undue hardship.

(9)        Undue hardship. – As defined in G.S. 168A‑3.

§ 168B‑4.  Reasonable accommodation duties.

(a)        A qualified pregnant person requesting a reasonable accommodation must apprise the employer, employment agency, labor organization, place of public accommodation, or covered governmental entity of the person's pregnancy, submit any necessary medical documentation, make suggestions for such possible accommodations as are known to such person, and cooperate in any ensuing discussion and evaluation aimed at determining possible or feasible accommodations.

(b)        Once a qualified pregnant person has requested an accommodation, or if a potential accommodation is obvious in the circumstances, an employer, employment agency, labor organization, place of public accommodation, or covered governmental entity shall investigate whether there are reasonable accommodations that can be made and make reasonable accommodations as defined in G.S. 168A‑3(8).

§ 168B‑5.  Discriminatory practices prohibited.

(a)        A person affected by pregnancy shall be treated the same for all employment‑related purposes, including receipt of benefits under fringe benefit programs, as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.

(b)        It is an unlawful, discriminatory practice to do any of the following:

(1)        For an employer to fail to hire or consider for employment or promotion, to discharge, or otherwise to discriminate against a pregnant person with respect to compensation or the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment on the basis of a condition related to pregnancy.

(2)        For an employment agency to fail or refuse to refer for employment, or otherwise to discriminate against a pregnant person on the basis of a condition related to pregnancy.

(3)        For a person controlling an apprenticeship, on‑the‑job training, or other training or retraining program, to discriminate against a pregnant person with respect to admission into or employment in the apprenticeship, on‑the‑job training, or other training or retraining program on the basis of a condition related to pregnancy.

(4)        For an employer, labor organization, or employment agency to fail to meet the duties imposed by this Chapter.

(5)        For an employer to fail or refuse to make reasonable accommodations for limitations arising from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions for an applicant for employment or an employee if the applicant or employee so requests, unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the business of the employer.

§ 168B‑6.  Retaliation prohibited.

(a)        No employer shall discharge, expel, refuse to hire, or otherwise discriminate against any person or applicant for employment, nor shall any employment agency discriminate against any person, nor shall a labor organization discriminate against any member or applicant for membership because the person has opposed any practice made a discriminatory practice by this Chapter or because the person has testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in proceedings under this Chapter. For purposes of this section, examples of retaliation may include denying employment opportunities based on the need for a reasonable accommodation, requiring an employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided, counting an absence related to pregnancy under a no‑fault attendance policy, and failing to reinstate an employee to the employee's original job or to an equivalent position with equivalent pay and accumulated seniority, retirement, fringe benefits, and other applicable service credits when the employee's need for reasonable accommodations ceases.

(b)        No entity or person covered under this Chapter shall retaliate against or coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with a person who exercises rights under this Chapter or assists a person in exercising the person's rights under this Chapter.

§ 168B‑7.  Posting of notices.

(a)        An employer shall provide notice of the right to be free from discrimination in relation to pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions, including the right to reasonable accommodation to known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions, as provided by this Chapter. This notice shall be conspicuously posted at an employer's place of business in an area accessible to employees.

(b)        In addition to the posted notice required by subsection (a) of this section, notice of the right to be free from discrimination in relation to pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions shall be provided to employees individually as follows:

(1)        In writing to new employees at the commencement of employment.

(2)        Orally or in writing to existing employees within 120 days after the effective date of this Chapter.

(3)        Orally or in writing to any employee who notifies the employer of her pregnancy within 10 days of such notification.

§ 168B‑8.  Civil action.

(a)        A pregnant person aggrieved by a discriminatory practice prohibited by G.S. 168B‑5 may bring a civil action to enforce rights granted or protected by this Chapter against any person, covered governmental entity, employer, employment agency, or labor organization that is alleged to have committed such practices or engaged in such conduct. The action shall be commenced in superior court in the county where the alleged discriminatory practice or prohibited conduct occurred or where the plaintiff or defendant resides. Such action shall be tried to the court without a jury.

(b)        In a civil action brought to enforce provisions of this Chapter, the court may award declaratory or injunctive relief and back pay. Any such back pay liability shall not accrue from a date more than three years prior to the filing of an action under this Chapter.

(c)        In any civil action brought under this Chapter, the court, in its discretion, may award reasonable attorneys' fees to the substantially prevailing party as part of costs.

§ 168B‑9.  Statute of limitations.

A civil action brought pursuant to this Chapter shall be commenced within three years after the date on which the aggrieved person became aware of or, with reasonable diligence, should have become aware of the alleged discriminatory practice or prohibited conduct.

§ 168B‑10.  Construction of Chapter.

Nothing in this Chapter shall be construed to preempt, limit, diminish, or otherwise affect another provision of federal, State, or local law, or to invalidate or limit the remedies, rights, and procedures of a federal, State, or local law that provides greater or equal protection for an employee affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related condition.

SECTION 2.  This act becomes effective October 1, 2021, and applies to any act or omission occurring on or after that date.