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Accommodation and Compliance: Pregnancy

About Pregnancy

During pregnancy and postpartum, some women experience no, or very few, limitations. But at certain points during their pregnancies or recovery, some women may be limited in their ability to perform certain tasks such as heavy lifting, climbing ladders, or running. Some women may develop complications as a result of pregnancy or childbirth, such as diabetes, back impairment, high blood pressure, urinary tract infections, severe dehydration, and depression. And for some women, pregnancy and childbirth may exacerbate existing impairments. As a result, women who are working during pregnancy may require job accommodations during and after their pregnancies.

Pregnancy and the Americans with Disabilities Act

Pregnancy by itself is generally not considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because it does not meet part of the definition of disability. To have a disability under the ADA, a person must have an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; pregnancy by itself is not considered an impairment. However, complications resulting from pregnancy and childbirth, as well as conditions exacerbated by pregnancy and childbirth, may constitute impairments and may therefore be disabilities.

If a person does not have a disability, there is no obligation to accommodate under the ADA. However, according to the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), employees who are pregnant may have rights under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) or state laws. The PDA provides that pregnant workers must be treated at least as well as other workers who are similar in their ability or inability to work. Under this rule, if an employer accommodates an employee whose disability is a back injury that temporarily prevents the employee from lifting more than 20 pounds, for example, the employer likely must also accommodate the pregnant worker whose pregnancy temporarily prevents her from lifting more than 20 pounds. In addition, some state laws require employers to accommodate limitations arising from pregnancy.

Accommodating Employees with Pregnancy

Women who are pregnant may develop some of the limitations discussed below, but seldom develop all of them. Also, the degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Be aware that not all women who are pregnant will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. The following is only a sample of the possibilities available. Numerous other accommodation solutions may exist.

Questions to Consider:

  1. What limitations is the employee experiencing?
  2. How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee’s job performance?
  3. What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
  4. What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?
  5. Has the employee been consulted regarding possible accommodations?
  6. Once accommodations are in place, would it be useful to meet with the employee to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
  7. Do supervisory personnel and employees need training?

Accommodation Ideas:

Situations and Solutions:

Events Regarding Pregnancy