55,000 reasons to allow your pregnant employees to be exposed to toxic chemicals at work


Wait. That came out wrong.

What I meant to say was…

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act forbids employers from requiring that pregnant employees leave work.

Even if it’s because the employer honestly believes that workplace conditions could place the health of mom or fetus at risk.

Yes, really.

Indeed, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced last week in this press release that it had a settled a case with a chain of furniture stores. The EEOC alleged that the store employed a woman in a job that required the use of various chemicals to repair furniture. After the woman told her employer that she was pregnant, “the regional shop manager showed [her] a can of lacquer thinner that contained a warning that the contents could potentially pose a risk to a woman or her unborn child, and discussed the warning with [her]. The EEOC said that [she] was then told that because she was pregnant, she could no longer work at the facility.”

According to the EEOC press release, the company paid $55,000 to resolve the lawsuit.

But, what if the employee wants time off?

Well, that’s a different story.

  1. The EEOC takes the position that, under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, an employer should allow women with physical limitations resulting from pregnancy to take leave on the same terms and conditions (e.g., provide them with the same amount of leave) as others who are similar in their ability or inability to work.
  2. If the employee has a pregnancy-related disability (e.g., high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, etc.), then the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that the employer provide a reasonable accommodation to allow the employee to perform the essential functions of the job. That could include leave as an accommodation.
  3. If the employee has a serious health condition and otherwise qualifies for leave, then the Family and Medical Leave Act would require that you provide leave, if it’s requested.
  4. State and local pregnancy accommodation laws may also mandate leave as an accommodation.

Just don’t unilaterally require that the employee miss work. Or I may blog about you.


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