Generally, pregnancy isn’t a disability under the ADA, nor are pregnancy-related complications. But under some limited circumstances—when pregnancy complications cause separate medical conditions that persist after birth—the employee may qualify as disabled under the ADA. Then she’s entitled to reasonable accommodations.
Recent case: Denise worked in the funeral industry. When she became pregnant, she feared that she would not get a promised raise, so she delayed telling her supervisors. When she finally informed them, she claims she was treated poorly.
She returned to work after giving birth, but then began missing work for various medical conditions, including chronic cholecystitis, which may be linked to pregnancy.
When Denise was terminated, allegedly due to a downturn in business, she sued, claiming that she had been discriminated against on account of disability.
Her former employer argued that she wasn’t disabled because pregnancy and associated complications are temporary in nature and therefore aren’t disabilities under the ADA.
The judge agreed with the employer that pregnancy and its complications typically are not disabling. However, when pregnancy causes long-term physical problems, those problems may qualify as disabilities. The court gave Denise permission to resubmit her complaint, telling her that if she could tie her chronic cholecystitis to her pregnancy and show that it substantially impairs a major life function, she will get her day in court. (Sam-Sekur v. The Whitmore Group, No. 11-CV-4938, ED NY, 2012)
Final note: What sort of conditions might qualify as disabling following pregnancy? Possibilities include severe postpartum depression, diabetes that persists after birth and recovery, and any long-term problems like heart maladies caused by pregnancy complications such as high blood pressure.
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