How far must we go to accommodate a pregnant employee’s no-lifting request?

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Q. We have a pregnant employee who works as a nurse and has asked that she be excused from lifting patients during her pregnancy. Do we have to grant her request?

A. Under federal law, pregnancy is not considered a disability and, therefore, there is arguably no duty to accommodate the effects of pregnancy. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires only that pregnant women be treated the same as similarly situated individuals (i.e., other individuals with short-term medical conditions).

However, the EEOC has signaled that it believes that pregnant employees may be entitled to job accommodations, and accommodations for pregnancy-related limitations is one of the EEOC’s top enforcement priorities in its current strategic enforcement plan.

Also, some states (but not Pennsylvania) have passed laws requiring pregnancy-related accommodations, including, most recently, New Jersey.

Although there is currently no obligation in Penn­­syl­­vania or federal law for you to grant the employee’s request, there is a risk of an adverse finding from the EEOC if the employee were to file an EEOC charge.

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