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:
- What limitations is the employee experiencing?
- How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee’s job performance?
- What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
- What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?
- Has the employee been consulted regarding possible accommodations?
- 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?
- Do supervisory personnel and employees need training?
Situations and Solutions:
A customer service agent for an insurance company was pregnant and experiencing significant leg and back pain when sitting for long periods of time.
She also needed to use the restroom frequently. The employer provided an adjustable workstation to enable the employee to alternate between sitting and standing positions. The employer also allowed her to take more frequent rest breaks by dividing her existing thirty-minutes of break time into several smaller increments of time so she could use the restroom as-needed.
A nursing assistant for a rehabilitation hospital was in the third trimester of her pregnancy and, due to complications, was restricted from lifting more than twenty pounds.
Her job was restructured temporarily to assign her to care for patients who did not require transfer assistance and was permitted to ask co-workers for assistance when she needed to move items weighing more than twenty pounds.
A social media coordinator with preeclampsia was placed on bed rest during the last month of her pregnancy.
She was restricted from climbing, walking, and standing for extended periods of time. She also required a reduced schedule of working no more than six hours per day. The majority of her job tasks could be completed on-line. She was permitted to reduce her schedule and work from home for the duration of her pregnancy. She attended team meetings using a videoconferencing app.
A receptionist for a law firm required time to express breast milk for her baby during her work day.
She was provided a private space that was shielded from view and free from intrusion and reasonable break time to express milk, as-needed. A co-worker served as back-up receptionist during these short breaks. The employee was also allowed to flex her schedule to make-up any extended time taken, beyond ordinary breaks. She kept a small cooler at her workstation for storing milk.
A quality inspector for a manufacturing company was experiencing painful swelling in her legs, ankles, and feet during pregnancy.
Her job required standing for long periods of time and she needed to be somewhat mobile. Her medical provider recommended that she take breaks to get off her feet. The employer provided a stand/lean stool to enable her to take pressure off her feet, as-needed, added anti-fatigue matting to her work area, and permitted the employee to rest with her feet up during breaks.
JAN Publications & Articles Regarding Pregnancy
Consultants' Corner Articles
- A Support Person as an Accommodation
- Accommodations Related to Commuting To and From Work
- Best Practices for Addressing Requests for Ergonomic Chairs
- Confidentiality of Medical Information under the ADA
- Hidden Disabilities: Confidentiality and Travel
- How does the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Apply to Employees Who Have Infertility?
- No Articles available for Pregnancy