Employers’ Guide to Pregnancy Accommodation

Author: Nicki Malekadeli
Posted on: November 28, 2019

Pregnancy comes with various health implications. Employees who are pregnant and working at the same time not only deal with keeping the quality of their work up to par, but they also have to endure the fatigue, nausea, and discomfort that pregnancy comes with. Because pregnancy is so precarious, they must also keep their working hours to a minimum so as to avoid complications. All these factors should be taken into consideration by the employer. Under these circumstances, an employer must know how to adjust accordingly to the needs of the employee temporarily.

California Pregnancy Accommodation Laws

If an employee decides to tell her employer that she is pregnant (may it be via an email, a letter, or in person) an employer must be cautious with his/her/their subsequent actions. If an employer rashly decides to let go of the employee, assuming that her pregnancy will get in the way of her responsibilities, this may possibly lead to catastrophic consequences. On the other hand, if an employer does make accommodations for the employee, there must also be boundaries and a set of policies to be implemented. The following are laws that both the employer and employee must take note of:

Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA)

California Law prohibits discrimination by employers with five or more employees, towards people “on the basis of pregnancy (past, present, or future), childbirth, or related medical conditions.” This is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to the PDA and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (FEHA), this type of discrimination falls under unlawful sex discrimination. An employer cannot fire an employee due to the fact that she is pregnant, has been pregnant, or wants to get pregnant. Likewise, an employer cannot refuse to hire a person because of the same reasons. Some of the provisions include the ff:

  • The pregnant employee must be given the same treatment as any other temporarily disabled employee. (ex. If an employer allows an employee with a temporary disability four months of unpaid disability leave, an employee who is temporarily disabled due to her pregnancy must be allowed the same accommodation.)
  • Discrimination in all aspects of employment including pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, and fringe benefits are prohibited.
  • Employers must provide pregnant workers with equal access to leaves and health benefits.
  • If the employee has provided at least 12 months (1,250 hours) of service under the employer, and the employer hires at least 20 workers within 75 miles of the worksite, the employee is allowed to take 12 weeks of parental leave to bond with the child within the year of birth, adoption, or foster care placement.

Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL)

Pregnancy disability refers to a physical or mental condition caused by pregnancy or childbirth, which hinders an employee from efficiently performing her job. It may also be the other way around wherein the employee is temporarily disabled due to her work which may potentially cause complications to her pregnancy and its completion. The PDL may be taken as needed and it allows up to four months of leave. Usually, the PDL is taken four weeks before the employee’s due date, then six weeks after vaginal or normal delivery, or eight weeks after a C-section. Afterward, an employee must still be given a guaranteed chance to return to the same position of employment under the employer. Once an employer refuses to reinstate the employee due to reasons caused by her pregnancy, there is a high chance for retaliation.

What are Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnancy?

Reasonable by definition means “rational”, “fair”, or “sensible”. This implies that there should be requests during the dialogue regarding accommodations that an employer must provide, contrary to demands, unless they are called for. If an employee’s request is necessary and essential to the health of both the mother and the child, the employer must allow these requests to be considered.

Providing reasonable accommodations for pregnancy is not “special treatment.” More often than not, these accommodations help a majority of the employees. Employee performance defines the productivity of a company. This is why providing them with understanding and reasonable policies and accommodations is consequential. Employers who fail to give accommodations may possibly have to face a pregnancy discrimination attorney.

Complying with California’s Pregnancy Accommodation Laws

Limitations when it comes to work will vary from person to person. One thing an employer should not be afraid to do is to ask questions. Communication is the key to providing effective and reasonable accommodation. Negotiate with your employee, but also keep in mind that there is a fine line between reasonable accommodations and exploitative demands. Some examples of accommodations may include the following:

  • A comfortable lounging room or chair where they can rest during their breaks
  • Allowing them to sit during shifts as needed
  • Changing work hours (duration and time of day)
  • Providing a more accessible work-station
  • Allowing employees to take leaves
  • Giving leeway for the employee to wear maternity clothes if there is a strict and specific dress code.

Employers must be extra cautious when dealing with special circumstances such as the pregnancy of an employee. If need be, seek legal counsel so you can avoid committing labor violations.

Get in touch with Mesriani Law Group today!