When Your Pregnancy or Post-Pregnancy-Related Health Condition Shows a Need for an Accommodation: Living with a Pregnancy and Disability in a California Workplace
Having a baby can be one of the most joyous and exciting times for many women, but when you’re working when pregnant, the workplace can become a time of stress even if you are having an easy pregnancy. Typically, some pregnant workers stress and worry about their employer retaliating against them for taking time off for doctor’s visits during a normal pregnancy. The stress may be exacerbated if their pregnancy has complications, requiring accommodations at work, such as a stool to sit on while working or needing longer time off from work than they had planned.
If there’s one thing you remember from reading this, you should know that you have protections. Employers may not discriminate against you because of your pregnancy, they also may not discriminate against you because of your pregnancy related medical condition. When you suspect or believe you have been discriminated against by your employer because of your pregnancy or pregnancy-related medical condition, you need to speak with a Los Angeles Pregnancy Discrimination lawyer at Theory Law APC.
These Laws Protect Pregnant Employees
In California, there are multiple laws that protect pregnant workers from discrimination, retaliation, and harassment. These laws can also offer protected leave to employees who have a pregnancy-related disability. Here are some important laws to be aware of that protect pregnant employees in California:
- Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) is a type of job-protected leave of up to four months for pregnant employees who are disabled due to a pregnancy-related health condition. The employee is entitled to up to four months of leave, during pregnancy or after childbirth, as long as she has the disability. This leave is available to employees who are unable to work due to a pregnancy-related condition, such as severe morning sickness, preeclampsia, recovery from childbirth, or a pregnancy-related disability. Employers are not required to pay the employee while she is on leave. However, they are required to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees and maintain health benefits for the duration of the leave. To receive PDL, you must work for an employer with at least five employees. Part-time employees are also protected under this law.
- The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) provides eligible employees up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave for their own serious health condition such as a pregnancy-related medical condition, to care for a family member’s serious health condition, or to bond with a new child. Employers are not required to pay the worker while on leave. Your employer must maintain any health benefits you have for the duration of the CFRA leave. To be eligible for CFRA, you must have been employed for a total of 12 months before leave and worked at least 1,250 hours for an employer with at least five employees.
- Pregnancy discrimination is prohibited under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). It is unlawful, under FEHA, for an employer with five or more employees to discriminate, harass, or retaliate against employees who are pregnant or have pregnancy-related medical conditions. This means that employers cannot take adverse employment actions, such as firing or demoting an employee, because of their pregnancy or pregnancy-related medical condition. FEHA also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees who are pregnant or have a pregnancy-related medical condition.
Pregnant employees are also protected under federal law, specifically under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These laws protect employees from discrimination based on disability and sex, which includes pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions.
Similar to the CFRA, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave to bond with a new child, for their own serious health condition or to care for a family member’s serious health condition. If provided, the employer must maintain the employee’s health benefits for the duration of FMLA leave. To receive FMLA, the employee must be employed by an employer with 50 or more employees, worked for their employer for at least 12 months and have worked at least 1,250 hours during that 12-month period.
Workplace Accommodations of Pregnancy Related Conditions
Under California and federal laws, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees who have pregnancy-related medical conditions or limitations that affect their ability to perform their job duties.
Here are some instances of pregnancy-related medical conditions that may require accommodation:
- Back pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Gestational diabetes
Take for example a pregnant employee diagnosed with preeclampsia. This is a pregnancy-related medical condition that typically develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy, causing high blood pressure and can lead to complications for the mother and baby. Doctors may order bed rest for certain pregnant women with preeclampsia in order to reduce their blood pressure and delay the need of childbirth. In some circumstances, doctors may order modified work duties.
In the workplace, preeclampsia may require accommodations such as more frequent or longer breaks, modified work duties or schedules, or temporary transfer to a less physically demanding job. Accommodations may depend on the severity of the preeclampsia and how it affects the employee’s ability to perform their job duties.
However, pregnancy-related health conditions that might need an accommodation aren’t limited to physical disabilities or things that can happen during the pregnancy. Mental health conditions that develop after childbirth can also be considered disabilities, necessitating work modifications and triggering the employer’s need to participate in the interactive process. This includes postpartum psychiatric disorders such as postpartum blues, postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis.
The interactive process requires employers to engage in a dialogue with employees who have a pregnancy-related medical condition and are requesting a workplace accommodation. The process starts when the employee requests an accommodation and requires the employer and employee to work together in good faith and identify potential accommodations that can be made to allow the employee to perform her job. Reviewing the doctor’s order, for example an order requiring the employee have longer breaks or modified duties, may be necessary to determine possible accommodations.
Depending on the medical condition and the circumstances, there are many accommodations that can be made for the employee, such as access to a lactation room, equipment or seating modification, light duty, or use of a stool or chair. However, an employer is not required to provide an accommodation if it would create an undue hardship for the company. If you are pregnant and have a medical condition or limitation that affects your ability to perform your job, you should talk to your employer about reasonable accommodations that could help you continue to work. Whether you are pregnant, or have a new child, there is a lot going on in your life and you have more important things to focus on than your employer’s pregnancy discrimination. Our office can help you so you can focus on the more important things in life. We have experience with pregnancy discrimination lawsuits in Los Angeles and can help you. As soon as you think your employer has discriminated against you because of your pregnancy or pregnancy-related medical condition, book a free consultation or call (310) 500-0206 to speak with a Los Angeles employment attorney
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