I came across an article this week regarding some common misconceptions regarding an employer’s obligation to accommodate a pregnant employee that I thought would be of interest.
A CBS morning show recently stated that: “[U]nder the current federal law, while employers are prohibited from firing or refusing to hire pregnant workers, they aren’t always required to make any on-the-job accommodations, such as offering more bathroom breaks or temporary desk jobs.”
As you probably know, CBS’s take on the law is not entirely accurate. The US Supreme Court has held that an employer must offer a reasonable accommodation to a pregnant employee if it offers reasonable accommodations to other employees with similarly disabling conditions. The EEOC adopted the rationale of the Supreme Court and updated its guidance on pregnancy discrimination.
The bottom line for employers when dealing with the need to accommodate a female employee because of pregnancy is that they must provide the same accommodations to pregnant workers as to other workers with similarly disabling medical conditions.
When faced with a request for an accommodation by a pregnancy employee, an employer should ask itself:
- Have we ever provided light duty to expedite the return-to-work of an employee with a work-comp claim?
- Have we ever provided light duty to an employee as an ADA reasonable accommodation?
- Have we ever allowed a lifting or standing restriction to an employee as an ADA reasonable accommodation?
- Have we ever provided time off to an employee as an ADA reasonable accommodation? (Keep in mind your obligations under both the FMLA and LSA-R.S. 23:342)
If an employer answers “yes” to these or similar questions, then it cannot deny providing the same accommodations to a pregnant worker.