Am I Obligated to Accommodate Pregnant Employees with Light Duty Work?
It's unclear currently whether an employer must offer light duty as an accommodation to a pregnant employee on terms that would be special to her because of her pregnancy. Clearly employers cannot refuse to offer pregnant employees less favorable terms or opportunities than it offers to other non-pregnant employees, so they must be treated on par, at least, but whether a pregnant employee is entitled to preferential treatment -- we will hopefully find that out from the Supreme Court in 2015.
Although the Supreme Court's issue relates to offering light duty work for pregnant women, the broader issue of offering accommodations to pregnant employees has had more movement in the past several years toward compelling employers to do so. When the ADA was most recently amended in 2008, it required that covered employers offer reasonable accommodations to women who were experiencing conditions related to their pregnancy, but not just being pregnant. This year the EEOC clarified that such conditions could include gestational diabetes, dehydration, or preeclampsia, and if these (or other limiting conditions) occur, there would be an affirmative duty to offer a reasonable accommodation to the expecting mother. Outside federal law, many states, e.g. Illinois, Minnesota, California, have their own laws regarding reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees. These are often more stringent than the federal laws on this issue, so make sure you understand the laws in the states where you have pregnant employees.
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