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5 possible reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, there were nearly 3.8 million births in the United States in 2018. That means there were roughly 10,400 babies born every single day. Accordingly, whether you are a business owner, company executive or manager, there is a good chance that you will eventually have a pregnant employee on your team. 

Both federal and California state law prohibit many employers from discriminating against workers because they are pregnant or new mothers. To comply with applicable laws, you must make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees. While there is no precise definition of what constitutes a reasonable accommodation, here are five possible options: 

1. Offering a seat 

If your employees usually stand to perform job duties, you must realize that pregnant workers may not be able to be on their feet for extended periods of time. Allowing pregnant employees to sit is probably a reasonable accommodation, assuming that they can still complete necessary tasks. 

2. Limiting heavy lifting 

Heavy lifting can be hazardous to the health of pregnant women and their fetuses. As such, you may want to limit lifting to objects that weigh under 25 pounds. 

3. Changing job duties 

You do not want to use an employee's pregnancy to punish, isolate or retaliate against her. Still, if a worker cannot complete certain tasks during her pregnancy, temporarily reassigning her may help you avoid a discrimination charge. 

4. Allowing telecommuting 

If your business operations do not require workers to be onsite every day, you may want to think about presenting the option of telecommuting. Even allowing a pregnant employee to work from home one or two days per week may make a big difference. 

5. Facilitating the expression of breast milk 

New mothers may need to take frequent breaks to express breast milk. While there is no legal requirement that you pay employees during these breaks, you must provide a private place for new mothers to use. To comply with federal law, this place cannot be the restroom. 

If any of these accommodations seriously disrupt your organization's business operations, you likely do not have to offer them. Nonetheless, by thinking of ways you can reasonably accommodate pregnant workers, you better position your company both to comply with the law and to retain top talent.

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