New Law Affects Accommodations for Pregnant Employees
If you have a business with employees, you likely know that you can’t discriminate against pregnant employees. So, refusing to hire, or firing an employee because she is pregnant would lead to a lawsuit. But a new law has been passed that now requires your business to make broader accommodations for pregnant workers.
Making Accommodations for Pregnant Workers
It’s called the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), and the protections afforded to pregnant workers now go far beyond just hiring and firing. The law applies to any business that employs more than 15 people.
The PWFA is to some extent modeled after the Americans With Disabilities Act, and many of its provisions will sound familiar to you, if your business is used to complying with the ADA.
The PWFA now requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. Again, just like the ADA, an employer can claim an exemption, if the requested or necessary accommodation can’t be provided because of the nature of the job or the business (that is, there is a bona fide business reason that the accommodation cannot be made).
What Kind of Accommodations?
Much like the ADA, the PWFA says accommodations must be made, but doesn’t give a list of the kinds of accommodations that must be made. But anything that would tend to make a pregnant person’s life easier, should be accommodated.
Pregnant workers may need more bathroom breaks, or closer access to bathrooms, or parking spaces that require less walking. They may request, and should be given, less physically strenuous activities. Many pregnant workers may need more frequent meal times, or the ability to eat at their desk or workspace.
Even flexibility of scheduling may be required to accommodate pregnant workers who may have morning sickness, or other conditions that require that they come in late and leave work earlier.
The law also requires that you outfit pregnant employees with clothing (if your company has an official uniform or outfit) or safety equipment that is sized appropriately for pregnant workers.
Note that the accommodations aren’t just for workers who are pregnant, but cover any ailment, disability or condition that is even related to pregnancy. So, for example, postpartum depression, or pregnancy related diabetes, or any other condition, even if just temporary, if it is related to the pregnancy, must be accommodated.
Sending Them Home: Don’t Do It
It may sound easier to just send a pregnant worker home, with or without pay, while preserving her job for when she returns-and in fact, under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), an employee does have a right to unpaid time off from work while pregnant. But you can’t force an employee to leave work without pay, even if you do preserve her job. If the pregnant worker wants to work and can reasonably be accommodated, you cannot avoid the requirements of the PWFA by just giving a pregnant worker leave.
Call the West Palm Beach business litigation lawyers at Pike & Lustig today for help keeping up to date with the current employment and labor laws.