is pregnancy a disability at work

Is Pregnancy Considered a Disability at Work?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was designed to ensure people with qualifying disabilities weren’t discriminated against based on their disability. It covers discrimination in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities. But is pregnancy considered a disability and are women protected under the ADA?

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What Qualifies as a Disability Under ADA?

Before addressing whether pregnancy qualifies as a disability, it’s important to establish who is protected under the ADA. In order to qualify as having a disability you must:

  • Work for an employer with more than 15 people, or
  • Be employed by state, local, or federal government, or
  • Be employed by a contractor or subcontractor who does more than $10,000 a year of work with government entities, or
  • Work for an employment agency, labor organization or joint labor-management committee with any number of employees, or
  • You are a disabled veteran who works for a private sector employer that does government work amounting to at least $25,000 annually.

An individual with a disability as defined by the United States Department of Labor is one who:

  • has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
  • has a record of such an impairment; or
  • is regarded as having such an impairment.

Under this definition, pregnancy would not qualify as a disability. However, that doesn’t mean a pregnant woman doesn’t have protection under the law, including the right to accommodation should she require it.

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What Rights Does a Pregnant Employee Have?

When it comes to employment discrimination and pregnancy, “fair” and realistic accommodations must be made.

Fair means that the employer must do for a pregnant employee what they would do for another employee in need of assistance. For instance, if the employer removed a heavy lifting requirement from a job description for an employee with a back injury, the employer must do the same for the pregnant employee.

Realistic means that the accommodation can’t be so extraordinary that it jeopardizes the business nor can it be over and above what is necessary. For instance, an employee requesting an ergonomic chair to help with the discomfort of pregnancy is a realistic request, while asking for a town car and a driver because the employee no longer wants to drive herself for work is not a realistic accommodation.

Pregnancy is protected under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which stipulates that “an employer cannot fire, refuse to hire, demote, or take any other adverse action against a woman if pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition was a motivating factor in the adverse employment action. This is true even if the employer believes it is acting in the employee’s best interest.”

The protections also apply to a past pregnancy or a pregnancy-related complication or issue that arises from birth. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act also protects women from being discriminated against by employers just because she is of “childbearing” age.

Pregnancy discrimination is a vast topic with lots of nuances. It can be hard to understand. If you would like to know more about pregnancy discrimination and your rights, download our free eBook: Guide to Protecting Yourself Against Pregnancy Discrimination today.

If you think your employment rights have been violated based on your pregnancy, give us a call. The initial consultation is free.

pregnancy discrimination in the workplace eBook

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