Pregnancy can be an exciting time for many, but protecting your health and the wellbeing of your child often requires you to take careful precautions. Alongside dietary restrictions, many pregnant workers must avoid heavy lifting or modify the amount of time that they spend sitting or standing. This can significantly impact their work, and leaves many concerned about whether they must choose between their physical health and their employment.
Under California and federal law, your employer must make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees. Which accommodations can be considered “reasonable”?
Reasonable accommodations vary depending on an employee’s health needs.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission notes that employers must provide their workers with reasonable accommodations to allow pregnant employees to continue their work. They must also provide accommodations for pregnancy-related conditions like morning sickness, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and postpartum depression as well as accommodations for nursing.
Depending on an employee’s individual needs, this may include:
- Modifying work or break schedules
- Providing assistance with manual labor
- Offering light duty work or temporarily transferring employees to a less taxing position to reduce heavy lifting or prevent exposure to harmful substances
- Adjusting equipment to accommodate an employee’s physical needs
- Replacing seating or adding a standing desk to allow the employee to work more comfortably
- Arranging a space for expressing breast milk if employees breastfeed their child
Reasonable accommodations also include up to four months of medical leave for pregnant employees if the company provides leave to other temporarily disabled employees.
Employers who refuse to provide reasonable accommodations for eligible employees or fire pregnant employees because of their request for accommodation could be found guilty of discrimination. If your employer denied you the accommodations you need, consider speaking to an attorney about your legal options. You could be eligible for reinstatement of your position, payment for lost wages and other compensation.