HR professionals frequently have questions about how to handle accommodation requests from employees that are pregnant.
There are specific federal laws that come into play regarding an employee who is pregnant, such as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
According to the EEOC (U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission) under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, an employer is required “to treat an employee temporarily unable to perform the functions of her job because of her pregnancy or a related medical condition in the same manner as it treats other employees similar in their ability or inability to work, whether by providing modified tasks, alternative assignments or fringe benefits such as disability leave.”
Simply stated, employers can not discriminate against an employee who is pregnant.
If an employer and a pregnant employee meet FMLA specific eligibility requirements, the employee may be able to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period. The leave may be full time or part time. It should be noted that the FMLA does not require an employer to provide an employee with light-duty work.
To be protected under the ADA, an employee must have or be regarded as having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. A pregnancy alone is not necessarily considered a disability, unless an employee has a pregnancy-related impairment.
If an employee is not eligible for accommodations under federal, state or local law, it will be generally up to the employer to determine the extend of such accommodations to a pregnant employee.
It is not necessary for employees to use the word “accommodation” when making a request. Employees can simply say that they need help or time off due to their pregnancy or pregnancy-related condition. When this occurs, the employer should engage in an interactive process to determine which laws and policies apply.
Stuart J. Oberman, Esq.
Stuart J. Oberman is the founder and President of Oberman Law Firm. Mr. Oberman graduated from Urbana University and received his law degree from John Marshall Law School. Mr. Oberman has been practicing law for over 30 years, and before going into private practice, Mr. Oberman was in-house counsel for a Fortune 500 Company.
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