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Pregnancy-Related Impairments And The Workplace

It can be confusing to distinguish between a pregnancy related disability and conditions that are the normal results of pregnancy, and whether such condition is covered by the FEHA, ADA, FMLA and / or Title VII. Sharon Rennert, the EEOC’s senior attorney advisor in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)/Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) Division of the Office of Legal Counsel, explained to attendees of the National Employment Law institute conference that “pregnancy itself is not a disability and never has been”. Pregnancy itself is not a disability, but the impairments that come with pregnancy can be and can possibly be a covered disability.

The duration of the pregnancy-related impairment will be a consideration in determining if it is a disability or not. For example, some women develop pre-eclampsia in their last month of pregnancy. It could be argued that this is not a disability because the impairment has not lasted long enough to have substantially limited a major life activity, and it is assumed that the symptoms will stop once the baby is delivered. However, if the pre-eclampsia has started earlier in the pregnancy and lasted several months, than it could be considered a disability.

It is also important to determine whether the pregnancy-related impairment is covered by FEHA, ADA, FMLA or Title VII. When trying to decide what is covered by what agency, it is important to consider a few distinctions. FMLA covers some pregnancy-related impairments that are serious health conditions. FMLA only provides for 12 weeks of leave a year and does not require the employer to reasonably accommodate the employee. For example, a pregnant employee is suffering for morning sickness. She would like to come in late to reasonably accommodate her pregnancy-related impairment. Under FMLA, she has no reasonable accommodation rights. She would be covered under the FEHA and ADA if the morning sickness lasted over several months and substantially limits a major life activity. FEHA and ADA prohibit discrimination against pregnant women, and do require reasonable accommodations for that employee.

At Watkins & Letofsky, LLP, our attorneys support business owners with the experienced legal counsel they need to navigate complex employment law matters. Our clients include human resources staff from a broad range of employers, including corporations, limited liability companies (LLCs), nonprofit organizations and municipalities in diverse industries. If you feel you may need an attorney or just have questions regarding employment law matters. Contact us at 866-439-1295 to learn more about our services in employment law and human resources consulting.