November 2, 2017

Pregnancy Workplace Protections Expand in the States (article)

Workplace protections in accordance with federal, as well as state and local laws, are afforded to women affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. Specifically, the federal law requires that these women be treated the same as other individual for all employment-related purposes, including receipt of benefits. 


In the past few months, several more states have enacted laws providing workplace protections and accommodations for pregnancy workers; among them are Nevada, Connecticut and Massachusetts 


The state of Washington enacted a similar law earlier this year, known as the Healthy Start Act, which requires employers with 15 or more employees to reasonably accommodate pregnant employees regardless of a disability.  The law took effect on July 23, 2017, and is enforced both by Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries (LNI) and the Attorney General’s Office.


This law provides richer benefits than either Washington’s law against discrimination or the federal pregnancy discrimination act. Specifically the law requires employers to make the following accommodations available without regard to pregnancy related disability status.


The first four of these accommodations are not contingent upon a written certification from a healthcare provider nor is the employer entitled to claim economic hardship:

  • Providing more frequent, longer, or flexible restroom breaks;
  • Modifying a no food or drink policy;
  • Providing seating or allowing the employee to sit more frequently if her job requires her to stand; and
  • Limiting lifting to 17 pounds or less.

For the following five accommodations, the employer may request written certification from a healthcare provider and may claim economic hardship:

  • Job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position, or acquiring or modifying equipment, devices, or work station;
  • Providing for a temporary transfer to a less strenuous or less hazardous position;
  • Providing assistance with manual labor;
  • Scheduling flexibility for prenatal visits; and
  • Any further pregnancy accommodation an employee may request, and to which an employer must give reasonable consideration in consultation with information provided on pregnancy accommodation by the LNI or the employee’s attending healthcare provider.

An employer cannot impose a reasonable accommodation on an employee; take adverse action against employee for requesting an accommodation; compel an employee to take leave if a reasonable accommodation can be provided; or deny employment opportunities to an employee if the denial is based on the employer’s refusal to accommodate an employee.


Resources.  For additional information about pregnancy accommodation and workplace protections in the states, as well as protections under federal law, visit the Department of Labor’s webpage, State-Level Provisions for Pregnancy Accommodation and Pregnancy-Related Disability.


The information contained in this article is provided as general guidance and may be affected by changes in law or regulation. This article is not intended to replace or substitute for accounting or other professional advice. Please consult a CBIZ professional. This information is provided as-is with no warranties of any kind. CBIZ shall not be liable for any damages whatsoever in connection with its use and assumes no obligation to inform the reader of any changes in laws or other factors that could affect the information contained herein. 

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