How Should Employers Accommodate Pregnant Employees?

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How Should Employers Accommodate Pregnant Employees?Building a family can be an exciting adventure. However, not all aspects of pregnancy come with excitement and joy. One comprehensive study from 2019 estimated that over 20% of pregnant people are scared to tell their bosses that they’re pregnant, a number that almost doubled over five years. Pregnancy discrimination in the workplace isn’t a new problem.

Employers have grappled with how to accommodate pregnant employees for as long as their employees have been having families. If you think that you may be the victim of pregnancy discrimination, the most important thing you can do is take care of yourself and your baby. The second most important thing to do is to contact an experienced employment discrimination lawyer. Our team at Smithey Law Group, LLC, can help you understand your rights when fighting for the accommodations you deserve to protect yourself and your child.

Defining Pregnancy Discrimination

Laws Prohibiting Pregnancy Discrimination

Several federal anti-discrimination laws protect pregnant employees and grant rights to accommodations. They include the following: 

Your state may have additional pregnancy discrimination laws too. These laws give some guidance to employers on how to accommodate pregnant employees.  

The PDA specifically prohibits pregnancy-related discrimination. This includes discrimination against employees because they intend or are trying to become pregnant, or if they have a pregnancy-related illness or disability. You cannot be denied a job or promotion because of your pregnancy. An employer also can’t take adverse employment action against (like terminating your employment) because of your pregnancy. The ADAAA does not specifically prohibit pregnancy discrimination, but it protects employees from discrimination based on many temporary conditions. Pregnancy-related disabilities may fall under this statute.

Examples of Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace

Sometimes people think that if they haven’t been fired or demoted, they haven’t been discriminated against. It’s important to know that the law prohibits an employer from changing an employee’s job responsibilities because of pregnancy. This is true even if the employer thinks that doing so would accommodate pregnant employees.
One example of such an adverse action would be a veterinary hospital that takes action to exclude a veterinary technician from working with animals after she discloses her pregnancy. Here, the technician informed her boss that she was expecting a baby. However, she did not ask for any accommodations. However, for the duration of her pregnancy, the hospital allows the technician to perform only clerical duties out of concern to accommodate pregnant employees. In this case, it would be very important for the veterinary technician to speak with an experienced employment lawyer right away.

Understanding Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Employees

The PDA requires employers to accommodate pregnant employees the same way that they would accommodate any other employee’s short-term disability. There are many ways to accomplish the statute’s mandate. Some examples of reasonable accommodations can include:

  • Scheduling accommodations, like flexible scheduling to accommodate doctor’s appointments or rest breaks when needed;
  • Physical accommodations, like allowing a cashier to sit on a stool to perform their job instead of standing for their shift; and
  • Employment policy accommodations, like temporarily suspending a “no drinking on the retail floor” rule for pregnant employees who require additional hydration during their shifts.

There are numerous strategies that employers can adapt on how to accommodate pregnant employees. Make sure to speak to an experienced employment lawyer if you’re concerned about the accommodations you’ve requested or been offered. If you’re worried that you can’t speak up and ask for what you need, our team at Smithey Law Group has many years of experience fighting for employee rights. We may be able to help you too.

Educating Managers on How to Accommodate Pregnant Employees

Most companies want to comply with federal law and do right by their employees. Intent sometimes gets lost in translation when communicating the company’s policy from corporate headquarters to regional offices to human resources managers to line managers. If you’ve requested accommodation and your manager has denied it, sometimes these issues can be resolved quickly and easily. 

To seek a resolution, make sure to keep records of your conversations with your manager. Document any adverse pregnancy symptoms you’re having. Maintain medical records demonstrating your pregnancy-related disability. Sometimes, having a conversation with an HR professional within your company can help educate your manager on how to accommodate pregnant employees. If that doesn’t work, it’s time to have a conversation with an experienced lawyer. A pregnancy discrimination lawyer can help you navigate requesting the accommodation you need and deserve.

Preventing Retaliation Against Pregnant Employees

You are still entitled to certain discrimination protections after you give birth. Depending on whether your employer is covered, you may be entitled to FMLA leave for up to 12 weeks. Your job is protected during your leave. Meaning, once you return to work, your employer needs to give you your job back or offer you an equivalent one. You may have a claim for retaliation if you are treated differently on your return to work because you took leave to which you were legally entitled. Make sure to speak with an experienced employment discrimination attorney as soon as possible.

How Smithey Law Group Can Help

At Smithey Law Group, LLC, our attorneys focus exclusively on labor and employment matters. Our focus makes us thought-leaders in the field, allowing us to provide cutting-edge, compassionate advice to our clients. If you think you’ve been the victim of pregnancy discrimination or retaliation at any stage of building your family, don’t hesitate. Contact us today to discuss how we can help.

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Joyce Smithey, a seasoned employment and labor law attorney, has over 22 years of experience representing both employers and employees in Maryland and D.C. Her practice, rooted in a deep understanding of employment law, spans administrative hearings to federal litigation. Joyce's approach is comprehensive, focusing on protecting client interests while ensuring legal compliance. A Harvard graduate, her career began in Fortune 500 companies, transitioning to law after a degree from Boston University School of Law. Joyce's expertise is recognized by numerous awards, including Maryland’s Top 100 Women. At Smithey Law Group LLC, which she founded in 2018, Joyce continues to champion employment rights, drawing on her rich background in law and business.

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