Not all women need accommodations on the job when they’re pregnant. But if you do start to realize that something needs to change or you need some additional help to perform your job’s usual duties, it’s never too early to ask for an accommodation from your employer. This can help you avoid making a mistake at work or injuring yourself.
How can employers accommodate pregnant women?
Depending on both your job and your needs when you are pregnant, your employer might provide accommodations for you in a few different ways.
- Physical: When women are pregnant, their bodies change in ways that can make regular working conditions uncomfortable, or even painful. To help with this, employers may provide accommodations like ergonomic office furniture, reserved parking, stools for taking breaks to sit during shifts, lifting and handling aids, or reassignment to less physically demanding tasks while a woman is pregnant.
- Scheduling and time-related: Women who need more flexible schedules may be able to come to an agreement with their manager or HR department, if their work allows.
- Policies: Some rules and policies in the office may be altered for pregnant employees. This could mean changes in the dress code, water or food allowed in a certain part of the office, or permission to sit at times when employees aren’t normally allowed to sit.
How the law helps
Certain laws ensure that pregnant employees are accommodated at work, and it never hurts to brush up on these rights.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): This law helps classify certain pregnancy-related impairments as disabilities. This means that if you experience a temporary condition as a result of your pregnancy (think preeclampsia, insufficient cervix, severe morning sickness, or pregnancy-related sciatica), and it meets ADA definition of ‘disability’ and interferes with your ability to do part of your job, then you’re entitled to a reasonable accommodation from your employer. There are two small exceptions: the accommodation can’t cause undue hardship to the employer, which means it can’t be too difficult or expensive to provide, and if there are two different options that would reasonably accommodate an employee, the employer can pick which one it wants to provide.
- The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA): Under the PDA, pregnant employees are eligible to receive the same kinds of work accommodations as other employees who have a disability. This law makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against pregnant women in any way, including denying them certain pregnancy-related accommodations.
- The Fair Labor Standards Act: Looking ahead to after your baby is born, an amendment to this law requires many employers with 50 or more employees to provide nursing women with a reasonable amount of time and space to express breast milk during the workday. This law applies until the woman’s child is a year old. There are exceptions under the law for certain exempt employees, such as teachers.
How to ask for an accommodation
Asking for potential accommodations is still pretty far off in your future. But here’s what you should know now about how to ask for an accommodation from your employer if you need it once you’re pregnant.
- Talk to your healthcare provider ahead of time: Have a conversation with your provider about what your job entails, and what they think about you continuing to do your job while you’re pregnant. What’s safe? What could pose a problem?
- Tell a direct supervisor: If you do realize that you need any accommodations for your job, you’ll want to let a supervisor or HR manager know that you need a work accommodation because you have a disability or medical condition as a result of your pregnancy.
- Be clear and specific: You’ll want to explain what exactly is challenging for you while making it very clear that you can still do the majority of your job very well. Here’s a great list of the types of accommodations that might be available to you. You might also need to submit a doctor’s note to confirm your condition.
Things to remember
If you do end up needing some sort of accommodations from your employer, it’s understandable that you might feel nervous to ask about it, but it never hurts to ask! Many employers, if able, are happy to work with you to provide reasonable accommodations that can help you continue to succeed at work.
If you’re a member of a collective bargaining unit, be sure to check your contract and ask your union leadership if you have any questions or concerns.
- “Accommodation Ideas for Pregnancy.” AskJan.org. Job Accommodation Network (JAN) from the Office of Disability Employment Policy, US Department of Labor, n.d. Web. Accessed 9/11/17. Available at https://askjan.org/links/about.htm.
- “Pregnant Women.” PregnantatWork.org. WorkLife Law, 2016. Web. Accessed 9/11/17. Available at https://www.pregnantatwork.org/pregnant-women/.
- Deborah C. England. “Your Right to Accommodation During Pregnancy.” Nolo. Nolo, 2017. Web. Accessed 9/11/17. Available at http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/your-right-accommodation-during-pregnancy.html.
- Adrienne Fox. “How to Accommodate Pregnant Employees.” SHRM. Society for Human Resource Management, Feb 2014. Web. Accessed 9/11/17. Available at https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/pages/0214-pregnancy-accommodation.aspx.
- “Facts About Pregnancy Discrimination.” EEOC. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Sep 2008. Web. Accessed 9/11/17. Available at https://www.eeoc.gov/facts/fs-preg.html.
- “It shouldn’t be a heavy lift: fair treatment for pregnant workers.” SHRM. National Women’s Law Center and a Better Balance, 2013. Web. Accessed 9/11/17. Available at https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/Documents/ItShouldntBeAHeavyLift.pdf.