New Bill Would Require Accommodation for Pregnant Employees

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By Eric B. Meyer

Does an employer have to provide a reasonable accommodation to a pregnant employee to allow her to perform the essential functions her job?

Let’s see.

Americans with Disabilities Act? No. Pregnancy is not a disability. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act? Well that depends. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is part of Title VII. But the current state of law is such that employers need only treat pregnant employees as they would other employees with temporary disabilities. However, most employers do afford accommodations (e.g., light duty) to employees with temporary disabilities. So, they would have to do the same for pregnant employees too.

But do I smell some duplicative federal legislation here?

Do we really need a pregnancy fairness act?

The Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act, introduced a few weeks ago, seeks to require that employers provide reasonable workplace accommodations for workers whose ability to perform the functions of a job are limited by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. According to a press release from Sen. Robert P. Casey, Jr., D-PA, the bill would help eliminate discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace:

Pregnant workers face discrimination in the workplace every day, which is an inexcusable detriment to women and working families in Pennsylvania and across the country…My bill will finally extend fairness to pregnant women so that they can continue to contribute to a productive economy while progressing through pregnancy in good health.”

Wait just a second. This sounds familiar.

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Odds of it passing are slim

What do you know? I blogged about this back in May, when the same bill called — you guessed it — the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act was introduced in the House of Representatives.

Are these bills well intentioned? Sure. But, for the reasons noted before the jump and in my earlier post, this legislation is largely unnecessary.

It doesn’t sound like it’s going to pass anyway. According to Christina Wilike at the Huffington Post, the chances of either bill passing are slim. According to Govtrack.us, the chances of passage are about 1 in 4.

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.

You know that scientist in the action movie who has all the right answers if only the government would just pay attention? Eric B. Meyer, Esq. gets companies HR-compliant before the action sequence. Serving clients nationwide, Eric is a Partner at FisherBroyles, LLP, which is the largest full-service, cloud-based law firm in the world, with approximately 210 attorneys in 21 offices nationwide. Eric is also a volunteer EEOC mediator, a paid private mediator, and publisher of The Employer Handbook (www.TheEmployerHandbook.com), which is pretty much the best employment law blog ever. That, and he's been quoted in the British tabloids. #Bucketlist.

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1 Comment on “New Bill Would Require Accommodation for Pregnant Employees

  1. I wish you were right that the legislation is largely unnecessary, but pregnant women are frequently fired because they need a stool to sit on, or an extra bathroom break, or help with lifting.  Workers with disabilities are allowed such accommodations – unless they are pregnant workers with disabilities caused by the pregnancy.  As I wrote back in May (http://workforce21c.blogspot.com/2012/05/do-we-need-pregnant-workers-fairness.html), passing the legislation will save jobs, prevent financial hardships for families, and reduce unnecessary employee turnover.  It will also keep employers out of court – refusing to accommodate pregnant women often goes hand-in-hand with pregnancy discrimination.  

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