These times have been challenging for many new parents, especially mothers who are working to provide for their family. Whether you have health complications or aim to remain healthy while working, you have the right to request accommodations for your pregnancy at work as an expecting mother. At Pickles & Ice Cream Georgia®, we want you to know your rights & feel empowered to talk with your employer about your growing bump!
Right to Accommodations
On June 27, 2023, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) went into full effect. If you need accommodations before, during, or after your pregnancy, and work for an employer with 15 or more employees or the government, you have the right to reasonable accommodations, or temporary changes at work, unless it would be too expensive or difficult for your employer. It may still be possible to receive accommodations even if you’re not able to perform some of your main job duties, so long as you’re able to perform those duties in the near future and you only need the accommodation for a temporary amount of time.
Reasonable accommodations can include:
- Flexible scheduling for prenatal or postnatal appointments
- Additional, longer, or more flexible breaks to drink water, eat, rest, or use the bathroom
- Help with manual labor and lifting
- A modified or reduced schedule
- Access to a water bottle or food, stool, or chair
- Leave or time off to recover from childbirth, even if you don’t qualify for the FMLA
- Leave or time off for bedrest, recovery from miscarriage, postpartum depression, mastitis, and other pregnancy-related health issues
- Breaks, private space (not in a bathroom), and other accommodations for lactation needs, like adding a lock to a meeting room for private breast milk expression
- Remote work or telework, and more.
Under the PWFA, an employer must work with you to find a reasonable accommodation that can meet your needs. This law also protects you from retaliation for needing, requesting, or using a reasonable accommodation.
You can access a sample letter and explainer to send to your employer if you are ready to request a reasonable accommodation under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act here.
Protections from Discrimination
If you feel that your employer is treating you unfairly because you are pregnant, it could be illegal under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (a law that applies to workplaces with 15 or more employees). For example, your boss CANNOT cut your hours or fire you when they find out that you’re pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or have experienced pregnancy loss. Contact your human resources (HR) representative if you believe that you have been discriminated against and to assist you with any accommodation request.
Is Pregnancy Considered a Disability?
Although pregnancy, by itself, is not considered a “disability,” some conditions of pregnancy may be disabilities, such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, or postpartum depression. If your job has 15 or more employees and you have a qualifying condition, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects you against discrimination and provides reasonable accommodations to allow you to keep working unless it would be too expensive or difficult to do so. Always document, document, document your conversations and any accommodations!
Rights to Leave
If you need to take maternity leave, you may be able to request leave to stay healthy under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.
The FMLA allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off per year to care for yourself or your new baby without losing your job or your health benefits. You may be able to take this leave if you work for the government or a company with 50 or more employees (within 75 miles of the main worksite if there are multiple sites), have worked at least 1 year at your job, and have worked at least 1,250 hours in the year before taking leave. If you need to visit the doctor for prenatal appointments or other medical emergencies, you may use this leave a little at a time, not just all at once.
If you are covered under the FMLA, you will need to request leave 30 days in advance of taking off for childbirth. Remember that if you need accommodations at work, you may need to tell your boss sooner.
You have the right to be pregnant and continue the work you need to do for yourself and your family. We encourage you to stay safe and as healthy as possible when you are working, and to always ask for help if you need help understanding your rights in the workplace! Visit A Better Balance at www.abetterbalance.org/get-help to contact our free & confidential legal helpline if you need assistance. Call and leave a message at 1-833-NEED-ABB (1-833-633-3222).
Pregnant and Postpartum Workers: Know Your Rights
Blog Writer: Kameron Dawson, Senior Staff Attorney at A Better Balance Southern Office