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“Workplace Pregnancy Protection Laws: More Than Just Family Medical Leave Act,” Workforce

November 26, 2018

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In an article published in Workforce on Nov. 15, 2018, Crystal Stevens McElrath provided insight on pregnancy protections for women in the workforce. While there is a period of 12 weeks of federally mandated unpaid leave available to new mothers under the Family and Medical Leave Act, some employers offer pay during this period or throughout a longer period of maternity leave. However, most employers have additional obligations to pregnant employees, which can include:

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers with more than 15 employees to provide reasonable accommodations if the pregnant employee is suffering from certain pregnancy-related disabilities, unless the accommodation causes undue hardship for the employer. Some examples include modified work schedules, additional leave, temporary reassignment to light duty or modifying work policies to allow more frequent breaks.
  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy (past, current or potential), childbirth or related conditions. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provides specific examples of prohibited discrimination, including denying a pregnant employee or applicant access to a job, promotion or opportunities for fear she will have physical limitations, require significant time off or impose high health care costs.

In addition to these federal requirements, many states and cities have additional laws to prevent discrimination. North Carolina, Indiana and Georgia have no additional pregnancy discrimination laws, though employers in those states should consider whether local ordinances require additional regulations. Complying with federal law does not guarantee an employer is in compliance with local law, as local laws are typically more comprehensive. For example, while the Pregnancy Discrimination Act applies to employers with more than 15 employees, 13 states and Washington, D.C. have statutes that may apply to smaller companies.

Large employers with locations in multiple states may find themselves with a broad variety of pregnancy protection requirements. To overcome this, McElrath suggests that employers adhere to the most stringent requirements and lay this policy out in the company handbook.

“Ultimately, when is doubt, err on the side of offering reasonable accommodations — especially if the company has offered similar accommodations to any employees in the past,” said McElrath. A few small accommodations for pregnant employees can go a long way toward maintaining employee morale, retaining valuable talent and minimizing the potential for expense discrimination claims.”

To view the full article, click here.

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