While many women have easy-going, uneventful pregnancies, many others develop medical issues while their body changes during pregnancy. These issues can be as common and harmless as frequent bathroom use to more serious, like preeclampsia. While such issues can be hard enough to deal with in the comforts of home, such inconveniences can be far more intrusive if you are dealing with them at work. Pregnancy discrimination is a growing concern for many women in the U.S. as was made clear when the EEOC issued their revised Enforcement Guidance for Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues on June 25, 2015. The EEOC issued this on the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision in Young v. UPS, which held that a company cannot treat pregnant employees any different than it does other temporarily disabled employees.
To be clear, pregnancy on its own will likely not qualify a woman for an accommodation, but any impairments associated therewith can be considered. For example, if your doctor advises you that you can no longer lift more than 15lbs at work, you should seek an accommodation. Such an accommodation would likely be offered to other employees who, for example, had lifting restrictions due to an injury on the job. For this reason, an employer must do for pregnant women what it would do for other workers who have restrictions due to issues other than pregnancy.
Using this as a guide, women should not be afraid to discuss accommodations with their employer. Communication is key. Once a pregnant woman discusses any issues she may be having with her pregnancy with her employer, the employer and employee should work together to find out what is a fair compromise. For example, if the pregnant woman finds that her work performance would increase if she were closer to the bathroom during her pregnancy, perhaps the employer could move her desk closer to the bathroom on a temporary basis. According to the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (“ADAAA”), an employer is obligated to provide a “reasonable” accommodation to employees who qualify under the Act. As one can guess, the interpretation of what is “reasonable” is usually a point of contention.
The essential take-away from recent trends is that employers and employees should work together on what work modifications would help the employee maintain productivity and not intrude on the business goals of the employer. If the two sides can strike a balance, pregnant employees and their employers will benefit greatly.
For additional information, check out the National Women’s Law Center.
Florida employees/employers: if you have questions about the above, contact our offices for a free consultation.
Outside of Florida: seek a qualified employment attorney in your area.
Disclaimer: This post should not be construed as legal advice. If you believe you have a legal issue, seek a qualified attorney in your state. Nothing contained herein is meant to create an attorney-client relationship, and any posts, comments, or responses are not confidential and are not legal advice.