Workplace Maternity: 5 Tips For Accommodating A Pregnant Employee In The Office

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is tasked with ensuring that companies do not engage in workplace pregnancy discrimination. This can include every aspect of employment, from pay to promotions to health insurance. Therefore, following the five tips below will keep you legally compliant while also accommodating your pregnant employee.

Workplace Maternity: 5 Tips For Accommodating A Pregnant Employee In The Office

Know the Laws

Both state and federal laws consider discrimination against pregnant employees to be illegal. If your company has over 15 employees, you fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In addition to this, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) protects pregnant employees from discrimination. Keep in mind that the PDA treats pregnant women the same as temporarily disabled employees. Additionally, the Department of Labor’s Fair Labor Standards Act allows nursing mothers protected time to express milk in the workplace. Finally, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees qualifying employees, such as pregnant or post-pregnant employees, up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

Create a Flexible Policy

There is nothing more troublesome that a detailed company policy that may come into conflict with a pregnant employee’s needs. Instead, create a flexible written policy about how you will deal with pregnant employees. This will be extremely beneficial for employees who experience difficult or complicated pregnancies. For instance, these employees may need a very flexible schedule and major adjustments to their work duties. Therefore, creating a flexible policy will allow you to make reasonable accommodations while staying in legal compliance and helping out your employee. Depending on the pregnancy, each pregnant employee will have different restrictions or accommodations needed.

Plan Early

Many employers naturally feel upset about having to make sudden adjustments and accommodations for pregnant employees because they wait until the last second to take action. Instead, create an open dialogue with the pregnant employee and start planning early. While management must be careful about inquiring about the health status or condition of employees, a company that has a good rapport with their employees will be able to avoid this. Therefore, start planning early for flexible schedules and duty reassignments. Apply the principles of risk management and simply plan for the worse. Therefore, plan on having the pregnant employee randomly miss work.

Offer Extra Accommodations

Consider offering pregnant employee accommodations that will help them continue working while also respecting their health needs. Dr. Gilbert Webb suggests that you consider modifying work duties for a pregnant employee that might need to constantly take breaks. First, create strategies to help them deal with physically demanding work. For example, provide lift aids, ergonomic equipment and temporary reassignment of duties. This may involve flexible scheduling that allows pregnant employees to arrive later, leave soon or have extra breaks. As long as the pregnant employee is performing their duties and reaching their hours, this shouldn’t be a problem. Keep in mind that this is actually an excellent cross-training opportunity for the pregnant employee and their co-workers.

Avoid Conflict

Certain pregnant employees may demand accommodations that are difficult to meet. Therefore, focus on productive problem solving and avoid open conflict. Work with HR in order to make a flexible plan that satisfies the pregnant employee. While this may create a burden for the company, it is much better than going through the legal system and attorneys. Consider working with an employment attorney in order to make sure that your policies are appropriate and that key decisions are nondiscriminatory.

In order to properly accommodate a pregnant employees, you should know the laws and create flexible policies. Plan early to assign duties without deadlines or major projects that pregnant employees can work on their own schedule. Be sure to avoid conflict and offer extra accommodations, such as modifying certain policies that restrict sitting, eating or wearing casual clothes.

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