What does an employer need to know with regard to accommodation for an employee who is pregnant?
Minneapolis employment and labor law attorney, Mary Krakow, explains how employers can provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees.
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Well, for an employee who is pregnant here in Minnesota we have what’s called the Woman’s Economic Security Act. We call it WESA for short. And WESA dictates that employers must allow pregnant employees more frequent bathroom breaks, food breaks, water breaks, and allow pregnant employees to sit if they need to sit even though that’s not how they usually perform their job. And that they are able not to lift more than 20 pounds. Employers cannot ask for medical information to support that kind of request from a pregnant employee. All right, those are the requirements under Minnesota WESA.
Now, for all employers federal law and state laws both in Minnesota and elsewhere will say that employers need to treat a pregnant employee’s request for accommodation in the same way that they would treat any request for accommodation in relation to a medical restriction. Which can include asking for medical documentation to support the request and then engaging in an interactive process with the employee. Talking to the employee, doing letters back and forth, e-mail, telephone conversations as needed with the supervisor, with human resources because they should be really up to speed on what kind of questions we can ask and can’t ask.
And then it’s a process of figuring out can we provide this requested accommodation without causing the company undue hardship. And in that case, I usually say, try what the employee’s requesting if it’s supported by medical documentation and see if it will work. Or fi the employer has an alternative that will be equally effective the employer can implement that alternative. But the employer needs to try; work with the employee, an interactive process is just that. It’s more than one-step; it’s more than one conversation to enable the pregnant employee to continue to perform the essential functions of the job.