Both state and federal laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act require American companies to provide reasonable accommodations to allow their employees to access the workplace and do their jobs. For example, the ADA might require workplaces to provide ramps at their entrances so that employees who use wheelchairs or cannot climb stairs can get in and out of the building.
However, current federal laws do not require employers provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees because of their pregnancy. Congress is thinking about changing that.
Possible new federal law for pregnant workers
A bill called the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) is slowly making its way through the Senate. That bill would extend the reasonable accommodations requirement to women who are experiencing debilitating effects of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. Such accommodations might include:
- Granting more frequent rest breaks
- Providing a chair for jobs that normally involve standing up
- Temporarily adjusting work duties to less physically demanding activities
Like with the ADA and related laws, employers are not excused from these accommodations unless doing so would create an “undue hardship” on the business. However, the law would only cover “qualified employees.” In the PWFA, a qualified employee is one who can “perform the essential functions of the position” either with or without accommodations. Thus, someone who lacks the training or ability to do a certain job, even with accommodations, would not be able to make a claim of pregnancy discrimination.
PWFA’s current status
The House passed the PWFA in May 2021. Since September, it has been stuck in committee in the Senate, but the bill has slowly gained co-sponsors ever since. Indications are that the Senate may take up the bill at some point in the near future.
Currently, pregnant women are entitled to equal treatment when it comes to hiring, firing, training and other employment decisions, and in some cases, may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation. Pregnant women may also have additional protections under state or local laws. Discrimination can cause terrible damage to a victim’s career, but those who suffer workplace discrimination can fight back through litigation.
If you believe that you may have been a victim of pregnancy discrimination, contact Gilbert Employment Law here.