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Accommodating Pregnant Employees

Ensuring Your Company is in Compliance
Employers today must provide changes at work for their employees who need them for pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, or other pregnancy-related conditions. The resources below will help you understand new legal requirements and how you can meet them.
Understanding Pregnancy Accommodations

New laws, new cases, new interpretations, and new attitudes are unsettling standard pregnancy accommodation practices.

What do employers have to do?

Employers with 15 or more employees must provide employees changes to how, where, or when their job is done to protect employee health and wellbeing when impacted by pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions, under a 2023 law called the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. (Other state laws may apply to smaller employers.) This includes changes employees need for:

  • Pregnancy symptoms and pregnancy complications
  • Infertility
  • Miscarriage, pregnancy loss, and abortion
  • Childbirth and recovery
  • Postpartum depression
  • Lactation (breastfeeding/chestfeeding)

What are accommodations and how do I provide them?

Many people need changes at work so they can work safely and protect their health and wellbeing during pregnancy or postpartum. These changes are called “accommodations.” The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” when they know an employee needs them because of pregnancy and related conditions.

Examples of common accommodations for pregnancy and related conditions include:

  • Extra breaks for rest, snacks, water, and restroom use
  • Uniform changes
  • Changes to job duties or changes needed to avoid bending, lifting, climbing, walking, and/or standing (like permission to sit on a chair)
  • Permission to eat or drink water more often while at work
  • Schedule changes
  • Working virtually
  • Avoiding toxic chemicals or other hazards
  • Time off for pregnancy-related doctor appointments
  • Leave for pregnancy complications or childbirth recovery
  • Lactation break time, space, and other needs
  • Any other solution the employee and employer can find that meets the employee’s health needs without being very difficult or expensive for the employer. Our Guide to Pregnancy Accommodations has ideas that may work for you.

If employers can provide the requested accommodation without it causing an undue hardship (significant difficulty or expense) in light of the employer’s resources, it should provide the accommodation. In the case of an undue hardship, the employer is required to engage in an “interactive process” with their employee to determine an accommodation that could meet the employee’s needs without causing a hardship.

Is Your Company In Compliance?

For more information on how to ensure your company is in compliance with the federal laws related to pregnancy accommodation and pregnancy discrimination, we reccomend these resources from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Lawsuits on the Rise

WorkLife Law’s 2016 report Caregivers in the Workplace shows that pregnancy accommodation cases increased 315% in the last decade, and the number of pregnancy discrimination cases remains high. Click below to download the report and learn more.

Seeking Medical Certification

Learn when and how to seek documentation from an employee’s healthcare provider following a request for pregnancy accommodation.

Accommodation ideas for pregnancy

To identify workable ways to accommodate pregnant and postpartum women, click the button below. You may also wish to visit the Job Accommodation Network for more information or a free consultation.

Help for employers seeking advice on accommodating pregnant workers or addressing other family caregiving issues.

WorkForce21c_logo_60Workforce 21C provides advice and consulting services to employers and their advisers on issues related to pregnancy accommodation, gender bias in the workplace, and family responsibilities discrimination.

You have new rights as a pregnant, postpartum, or lactating worker! Learn more about the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act today.