Pregnancy can affect the body in many ways, from hormonal changes and joint pain to constant body aches. United States federal laws provide pregnant women with similar protections to disabled persons. These protections also apply to pregnancy-related conditions, such as:
- Morning sickness
- Gestational diabetes
By law, companies with at least 15 employees may not discriminate against workers who suffer from pregnancy-related conditions and must provide reasonable accommodations when necessary.
What are reasonable accommodations?
Pregnancy-related conditions may limit someone from doing specific work tasks temporarily. Employees may request reasonable accommodations or adjustments to continue performing their job duties. However, these requests must not cause significant challenges or expenses to the employer.
Here are some accommodations that a pregnant employee may request:
- Temporary light duty
Generally, expecting mothers should avoid heavy lifting or physically demanding work. However, certain occupations like factory or construction workers typically involve strenuous activities. In that case, the worker may request temporary light duty or reduced physical work. If the company already has similar policies for employees with disabilities, it must also provide the same for pregnant workers.
- Remote work or schedule adjustments
The commute or drive to work can be extremely challenging when carrying a baby or after giving birth. Fortunately, there are now more opportunities to work from home. If it does not cause undue hardship to the employer, the employee should be able to request to work remotely instead. Additionally, the employee may need to visit the doctor regularly. The company must be flexible with the employees’ work schedules so the worker does not miss important appointments.
- Breastfeeding facilities
Breastfeeding mothers are entitled to have a private space and a reasonable break time to manage their needs. The area must not be a bathroom and should be clean, hidden from view, and come with an electrical outlet.
- Medical leave
Employees may request unpaid medical leave to receive treatment for pregnancy-related conditions. If the company qualifies under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the employee can take up to 12 months of unpaid leave before returning to work.
Pregnancy can come with new challenges that make it difficult to work. Companies can do their part by making reasonable adjustments to ease the burdens placed on pregnant workers. Pregnant workers have rights, and if those rights are infringed upon, contacting an experienced employment law attorney should be a priority.