If you are pregnant, there are federal laws that can protect you and give you certain rights in the workplace. These laws include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA).
Together, these laws not only protect you from pregnancy-based discrimination, but also require your employer to provide you with reasonable accommodations.
Accommodations in the employment context are alterations to your job duties or working environment that your employer either makes or allows. These could include changes to your work schedule, moving you to a less strenuous position, or allowing you to sit more frequently.
An employer’s obligation is to provide pregnant employees with reasonable accommodations when they are requested. The term “reasonable” means that the accommodations must not be unreasonably expensive or impose a significant burden on the employer.
Once an accommodation is made, it is up to the employer to show why the requested accommodation is unreasonable.
None of these laws require employers to give reasonable accommodations to every pregnant worker. In fact, employers who force pregnant workers to accept accommodations can find themselves in legal trouble. Instead, employers must wait until you request accommodations or evidence suggesting that you need one before they are allowed to implement accommodations.
For example, suppose that you tell your employer that you are pregnant but not due for another eight months. Your employer cannot unilaterally force you to accept a modified work schedule as an accommodation.
Instead, your employer must first wait for you to request a modified work schedule. Alternatively, if your employer notices that it is obviously difficult for you to stand for long periods of time, your employer can offer you a chair or stool on which to sit.
If you do not ask for a reasonable accommodation, and it is not plainly obvious to your employer that one is needed, your employer is not responsible for giving you any accommodation.
The ADA and other laws encourage a productive dialogue about accommodations, not a requirement that employers impose the same accommodation on all workers who share a common condition.
Every situation is different, and your needs will differ from the needs of other pregnant employees. The accommodations to which you and your employer agree ought to be ones that will benefit you in your situation and assist you in performing your job duties.
Some accommodations that your employer could make would be:
Your employer could permit you to use the restroom more often or sit down more frequently. Such changes to company policies or practices are likely to have a negligible impact on productivity, and so would likely be considered reasonable.
Once you become pregnant, you will need to attend doctors’ appointments more frequently, especially if your pregnancy is high-risk.
Another accommodation your employer might be able to make would be to permit you to adopt a more flexible schedule that would allow you to keep your doctor’s appointments while continuing to work full-time.
As long as your employer can do this without greatly disrupting the business’s operations, an accommodation like this would likely be viewed as reasonable by a court.
When you are pregnant, there may be substances you encounter at your workplace that are toxic enough to cause illness or endangerment to you and your baby. You might request a transfer to another department where you would not be exposed to the same substances.
Be open with your employer about what you need for your and your child’s health. Your employer should listen to you and discuss the proposed accommodation with you. If the employer believes the accommodation would be too expensive, your employer is free to discuss further options for meeting your needs.
And if you believe your request was denied despite being reasonable, Call or contact Jacqueline Armstrong today to discuss your case and what steps to take to protect your rights, your job, and your future.