The Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act may entitle you to reasonable accommodations to allow you to continue working while pregnant. As a general rule, an employee who has a pregnancy-related disability is entitled to a reasonable accommodation that will allow her to continue working through her pregnancy. An employer may not force a pregnant employee to take a leave of absence if she is able to perform her job with the reasonable accommodation.
Defining Reasonable Accommodation
An accommodation for a pregnant employee is reasonable if the employer provides similar accommodations for employees with other types of temporary disabilities. An accommodation may not be reasonable if it imposes an undue burden or cost on the employer.
Some examples of reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees include:
- Reassigning non-essential tasks such as occasional lifting that a pregnant employee cannot perform
- Moving a pregnant employee closer to the restroom
- Allowing a pregnant employee more frequent breaks
- Modifying a work schedule to allow a pregnant employee with severe morning sickness to start later than usual and leave later to make up the time
- Allowing a pregnant employee placed on bed rest to telecommute
- Granting more leave than is usually available under the employer’s sick leave policy
- Providing relatively inexpensive equipment such as a stool for a pregnant employee who needs to sit while performing tasks usually performed while standing
- Temporarily reassigning a pregnant employee to a light-duty position
Taking a Leave of Absence
If a reasonable accommodation cannot be provided, the employer must allow a woman with limitations resulting from pregnancy to take a leave of absence on the same terms and conditions as other employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work. An employer may not impose different or greater restrictions on pregnant employees who seek medical leaves than on employees who seek medical leaves for other reasons. In other words, employers may not discriminate against pregnant women when it comes to leaves of absences.
For example, an employer:
- May not fire a pregnant employee for being absent if her absence is covered by the employer’s sick leave policy
- May not require an employee limited by a pregnancy-related medical condition to first exhaust her sick leave before using other types of accrued leave if it does not impose the same requirements on employees who seek leave for other medical conditions
- May not impose a shorter maximum period for pregnancy-related leave than for other types of medical or short-term disability leave
- Must allow an employee who is temporarily disabled due to pregnancy to take leave without pay to the same extent that other employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work are allowed to do so
If you have been denied an accommodation or leave of absence for your pregnancy—or if you have been fired, demoted or denied a promotion because of your pregnancy—you should consult with an experienced employment discrimination lawyer immediately to protect your rights. There are strict time deadlines and procedural requirements for filing a claim of pregnancy discrimination. Contact us today.