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Common Questions about Pregnancy-Related Workplace Limitations


Following the Supreme Court's ruling in Young v. UPS, the EEOC updated its administrative guidelines on pregnancy discrimination, especially in the area of accommodating pregnant employees. These new guidelines clarify the expectations of the EEOC when it comes to the treatment of pregnant employees, including nondiscrimination on the basis of past or present pregnancy, the ability or intent to become pregnant, medical conditions related to pregnancy, abortion or the consideration of abortion.

Provisions of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed in 1978 to provide much-needed protection for female employees from discrimination on the basis of “pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.” The PDA includes two primary provisions: one prohibiting pregnancy bias, as a way to discriminate against a female employee because of their sex; the other prohibiting employers from treating pregnant females different from other employees who perform the same work, with respect to leave, insurance, and other benefits.

Employers are also prohibited from harassing employees on these bases and are required in many cases to accommodate them in particular ways. Here are some common questions about limitations in the workplace related to pregnancy.

Q. What can an employee do if she is having difficulty performing her job because of pregnancy or a related medical condition?

In many cases, employees are entitled to accommodations that will allow them to perform their normal job duties safely. Some common examples include modifications to work schedules, elimination of marginal job functions, permission to sit or stand, the use of ergonomic office furniture, and even permission to work from home depending on the nature of the job. Accommodations are often available for pregnant employees when those same accommodations are made available to other employees who are not.

Q. What happens if I still can't do my job, even with an accommodation?

In some situations, an employee who cannot continue their normal job duties even with an accommodation may be entitled to modified job duties under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Your employer may be required to reduce your workload, temporarily assign you to a different job, or eliminate certain essential functions in order to accommodate you. Usually, your employer must already be providing these types of accommodations for other non-pregnant employees.

Q. How do you request a pregnancy-related accommodation?

If you find yourself needing an accommodation or light duty because of your pregnancy, you should start by informing your supervisor, HR manager, or any other appropriate person that you need changes to be made at work because of your pregnancy. Your employer is not allowed to

terminate you or take any other adverse employment action against you simply because you asked for an accommodation or because you need one. Your employer also cannot pass the costs associated with any reasonable accommodation on to you. Since an employer is not required to excuse poor job performance, regardless of whether it is due to pregnancy, it is wise to request the accommodation before any problems occur.

If you feel you have been the victim of pregnancy discrimination or retaliation, or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights, please contact Michel | King , either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.

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