A healthy pregnancy is generally not considered a disability under ADA because it does not meet the definition of a disability on its own. However, a pregnant individual with complications resulting from pregnancy, or impairments provoked by pregnancy may be considered disabled under ADA. To be covered under ADA, the pregnant individual must have an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
Regardless of ADA status your agency should be attentive to other pregnancy protections such as Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), Title VII, and state discrimination laws.
General Pregnancy Accommodations
It should be expected that individuals who are pregnant may have restrictions in lifting, walking, standing for long periods, sitting, and being exposed to certain chemicals or conditions. As an employer you should consider offering accommodations such as: closer parking, rest breaks, a chair or stool for prolonged standing, ergonomic tools, a flexible work schedule, telecommuting, limited travel, relaxed dress code, and periodic rest breaks.
Light Duty and Reduced Work Schedules for Pregnancy
Cities are not required to provide light duty work or part-time work to accommodate a pregnancy. However, an individual who is pregnant should be treated in the same manner as other individuals with non-work related injuries. If a health care provider indicates that a pregnant employee needs part-time work for health reasons, you may have to provide that schedule.
Positions that may be Considered Dangerous during Pregnancy
Frequently cities ask if they can make their female police officer take leave for the safety of the fetus. The answer is No. According to the EEOC, if an employee is able to perform her job functions then she must be considered eligible for employment regardless of the presence of workplace hazards to the fetus. However, if the employee is unable to perform the essential functions of the job, an offer of accommodation in the form of a transfer to another position (if available) or offer the employee leave under FMLA and or your employer’s policies.
Employers who have women in positions that might endanger a fetus must warn women of the potential risk and provide alternatives, if available. However, if a woman chooses to continue to work in her capacity, the employer may not interfere with her right to work unless she cannot perform the essential functions of the job. International Union, United Auto., Aerospace and Agr. Implement Workers of America, UAW v. Johnson Controls, 499 U.S. 187 (1991).
What if a Health Care Provider Determines She must Stop Working?
If at any point a health care provider deems it medically necessary for a female to stop working prior to delivery, the employer should accommodate that request by offering leave. While most women can work up to their due date, other women may experience health conditions that require them to stop working until delivery and postpartum recovery.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum and Other Pregnancy Complications
Pregnancy affects all individuals differently. A woman who has severe morning sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum and is covered under ADA may have trouble with her work schedule. Consider flexible working arrangements, work from home, limited overtime, etc. Other severe symptoms may be morning sickness (all day sickness), fatigue, difficulty sleeping, back pain, migraines, gestational diabetes, and hypertension.
Pregnancy complications such as HELLP, ectopic pregnancy, placenta previa, pre-term labor, abnormal bleeding, placenta abruption, preeclampsia or toxemia are often dangerous and should be taken seriously.
Many courts have held that telecommuting is a reasonable accommodation under ADA. If a condition qualifies under ADA and telecommuting is not an undue burden on the employer then the employer may be required to allow it as a reasonable accommodation. If your organization allows other disabled employees to telecommute or allows similar positions the option of telecommuting it is likely that you would need to approve such a request. While some employers may resist this arrangement, if the critical elements of the job can be performed at home, the employer ought to approve this option.