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Accommodating Pregnant & Postpartum Employees

Posted by Eric Kingsley | Jan 06, 2016 | 0 Comments

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As we covered in a previous blog post, the U.S. Supreme Court, or SCOTUS issued its decision in Young v. United Parcel Service on March 25, 2015. Young v. UPS addressed the extent to which employers must accommodate pregnant workers under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). SCOTUS held that an employer's accommodations policy must not “impose a significant burden on pregnant workers” unless the employer has legitimate and non-discriminatory reasons for implementation of the policy that are “sufficiently strong to justify the burden.”

In addition to remaining compliant with the PDA, employers must be mindful of numerous pregnancy and postpartum laws. Below is an overview of pregnancy discrimination and pregnancy-related accommodation laws.

Anti-Discrimination (PDA)
Pregnancy can form the basis for a sex-based discrimination claim under the PDA and state anti-discrimination laws. Following the decision in Young vs. UPS, employers should generally offer pregnant employees the same accommodations that a non-pregnant employee would be offered with the same light-duty limitations.

Disability (ADA and State Disability Discrimination Laws)
Pregnancy itself is not a disability, but pregnancy-related medical conditions may be a disability requiring accommodation under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or applicable state disability discrimination laws.

State and Local Pregnancy Accommodations Laws
Some state and local governments have enacted legislation that requires accommodations for pregnant employees regardless of whether they qualify as “disabled” due to a pregnancy-related medical condition. Other jurisdictions, such as California, simply provide that employers must make reasonable accommodations for pregnancy and related conditions.

Nursing Accommodations (Federal Law)
Under the PDA, employers may not engage in adverse employment actions on the basis of an employee's lactation needs, yet the PDA does not require special accommodations. Note:  Employers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) may be required to offer reasonable unpaid break time to nursing mothers to allow them to express milk in a designated place other than a bathroom.

Nursing Accommodations (State Law)
Twenty-seven states have passed legislation akin to those imposed by the FLSA that mandates reasonable accommodations for employees who are nursing. California has its own requirements for how many employees an employer must have to be subject to these mandatory accommodations. California employers with fewer than 50 employees are not subject to the FLSA break time requirement if compliance with the provision would impose an undue hardship. Whether compliance would be an undue hardship is determined by looking at the difficulty or expense of compliance for a specific employer in comparison to the size, financial resources, nature, and structure of the employer's business. All employees who work for the covered employer, regardless of work site, are counted when determining whether this exemption may apply.

Postpartum Conditions
Postpartum conditions fall under the protections of the PDA in most cases.  Further, the EEOC has issued guidance, citing to the legislative history of the PDA, that a woman has “the right . . . to be financially and legally protected before, during, and after her pregnancy.” Also, courts will often assess a postpartum condition under the standard ADA framework to determine if it qualifies as a disability (significantly affecting major life functions). A postpartum condition, such as postpartum depression, can under some circumstances meet this test.

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If you are living in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, or San Diego and you think you are being discriminated against, contact Kingsley & Kingsley to speak with one of our experienced lawyers.

About the Author

Eric Kingsley

In practice since 1996, attorney and firm co-founder Eric B. Kingsley has litigated complex cases and authored numerous appellate briefs in both state and federal court on behalf of the California law firm of Kingsley & Kingsley, including over 150 class actions. Mr. Kingsley concentrates his pra...


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