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Rebecca Ward

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Accommodating Pregnant Employees

f469dd67a8dc7db4cfb6e249994ef9f5.jpg?t=1As a manager you are required to offer your employees fair accommodations for their disabilities, but did you know that pregnancy can fall under the definition of a disability? The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act (ADAAA) has broadened the definition of a disability to include more temporary, less severe conditions, which affects pregnancy and women’s rights in the workplace. Many states have their own guidelines and rules regarding reasonable classification of a disability and reasonable accommodations.

To avoid pregnancy discrimination you must first know the law and how to follow it. Lack of knowledge is the leading cause of pregnancy discrimination; uninformed managers sometimes make judgment calls in the moment, sometimes incorrect ones.

First and foremost, women have the right to work throughout their pregnancy, and employers cannot make a decision on behalf of their pregnant employees on whether to work or not work during pregnancy. Employers may request a doctor’s authorization for employees to continue in certain positions or certain job duties; however, employees and managers must come to a reasonable agreement on their pregnancy accommodation. So how can you be accommodating?  A few quick tips:

Create adjustments and strategies to address physical demands:

Pregnant women are not automatically eliminated from physically demanding jobs, especially if they are appropriately accommodated. To assist their physical positions, consider providing lifting aids for frequent or heavy lifting positions, stools or ergonomic chairs, alternative workstations, or, if necessary, temporary reassignment of duties.

Consider shift schedule adjustments:

Flexibility can greatly benefit a pregnant employee, and can be applied to many situations. Consider flexible arriving time, part or full-time telecommuting, flexible use of leave, additional rest periods, and frequent food, water, and bathroom breaks.

Modify reasonable policies:

Little changes make a big difference when accommodating pregnant employees. Consider relaxing some policies such as “no food and drink at a desk” or “no sitting.”

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