A. Current Protections Under Federal Law for Pregnant Employees Who Need Accommodations are Inadequate
A pregnant employee may be able to prove that her employer discriminated against her in violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”) by showing that her employer provided most non-pregnant employees with an accommodation (i.e. a lifting restrictions accommodation for injured or disabled employees), but denied her a similar accommodation. However, a pregnant employee may not have a legal claim under the PDA where she requests an accommodation that the employer does not offer or provide to non-pregnant employees. Obviously, pregnant employees may require certain accommodations that non-pregnant employees do not or that typically are not offered or provided to non-pregnant employees (i.e. increased bathroom or other breaks, not being required to lift heavy packages, working from home, etc.). Therefore, the gap in protection under the PDA leaves pregnant employees vulnerable in certain situations in connection with requests for workplace accommodations.
B. The Pregnancy Workers Fairness Act Offers Additional Protections
On February 16, 2021, the Pregnancy Workers Fairness Act (“PWFA”) bill was reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. If passed into law, the PWFA would expand protections afforded to pregnant employees under federal law. Specifically, the PWFA would make it unlawful for an employer to:
(i) Refuse to provide employees reasonable accommodations for limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions;
(ii) Require an employee to accept an accommodation that was not the result of the “interactive process” between the employer and the employee;
(iii) Deny employment opportunities to an employee that needs reasonable accommodations for limitations related to the pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions;
(iv) Require an employee to take leave – paid or unpaid – if another reasonable accommodation that allows the employee to continue working can be provided; and
(v) Take an adverse action in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment (i.e. termination, demotion, reduction in compensation, etc.) against an employee for requesting an accommodation for limitations related to the pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
The importance of providing the above protections is obvious and passage of the PWFA would ensure that pregnant employees have a baseline of protection under federal law in connection with requests for accommodations.
C. Protections Under State and City Laws
State and City laws may offer additional protections for pregnant employees who need accommodations at work, including protections offered under the PWFA bill. For example, under the New York State and New York City Human Rights Laws, pregnant employees may be entitled to receive work accommodations regardless of whether their employers offer similar accommodations to non-pregnant employees. To fully understand your rights in connection with requests for workplace accommodations, it is important to contact an attorney.
About Faruqi & Faruqi, LLP
Faruqi & Faruqi, LLP focuses on complex civil litigation, including securities, antitrust, wage and hour, personal injury and consumer class actions as well as shareholder derivative and merger and transactional litigation. The firm is headquartered in New York, and maintains offices in California, Delaware, Georgia and Pennsylvania.
Since its founding in 1995, Faruqi & Faruqi, LLP has served as lead or co-lead counsel in numerous high-profile cases which ultimately provided significant recoveries to investors, direct purchasers, consumers and employees.
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About Taylor Crabill
Taylor Crabill's practice is focused on employment litigation. Mr. Crabill is an Associate in the firm's New York Office.
Associate at Faruqi & Faruqi, LLP
New York office
Tel: (212) 983-9330
Fax: (212) 983-9331