The District of Columbia Protecting Pregnant Workers Fairness Act of 2014 (PPWFA) became effective March 3, 2015. The new law significantly expands existing protection for pregnant workers. Under existing law, employers were already required to accommodate pregnancy-related conditions that met the definition of disability. Some argued that employers were also required to accommodate pregnant women who did not have a disability but who were limited in their ability to do their jobs because of normal pregnancy conditions or to protect themselves or their unborn children (for example, a woman with a healthy pregnancy whose doctor has advised not lifting more than 25 pounds, a pregnant police officer who does not have a bullet-proof vest that fits, a pregnant worker who should not be around chemical fumes). This law makes that argument academic.
Here’s what employers need to know:
- The PPWFA covers all employers, regardless of size.
- Employers must now make reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, such as more frequent or longer breaks, time off for childbirth, temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position, and job restructuring such as light duty or a modified work schedule.
- Accommodations are required for childbirth and breastfeeding, as well as for pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions.
- An accommodation is not “reasonable” if it causes undue hardship for the employer. “Undue hardship” means that the accommodation would require significant difficulty or significant expense for the employer when considered in light of the size of the employer’s business, its financial resources, and its operations.
- An employer may request that the employee provide a certification from her health care provider about the medical advisability of a reasonable accommodation to the same extent that the employer requests medical certifications from other employees who have temporary disabilities.
- An employer is required to engage in good faith in a “timely and interactive process” with a pregnant employee who requests or needs assistance to be able to work to determine a reasonable accommodation for that employee.
- Employers are prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against employees who request reasonable accommodations.
- Once a pregnant employee no longer needs a reasonable accommodation, she is to be reinstated to her original position or an equivalent positions (equivalent in pay, seniority and retirement, benefits, and other service credits).
- An employer cannot require an employee to take leave if an accommodation can be provided.
- An employer cannot require an employee to accept an accommodation that she does not want if she does not have a known limitation or the accommodation is not necessary.
- Employers must post a notice of employee rights under the statute in English and Spanish on or before July 1, 2015. In addition, a notice of rights must be given to new hires and to pregnant employees within 10 days of the date the employer receives notice of pregnancy.
- Aggrieved employees may file an administrative or civil action.
Pregnant employees in the District of Columbia also may be covered by the DC Family and Medical Leave Act, which provides employees with 16 weeks of family leave and another 16 weeks of medical leave in a 24 month period. The leave can be used for prenatal appointments, pregnancy-related conditions such as morning sickness, and childbirth (medical leave), as well as for child bonding (family leave).
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If you have questions about your company’s pregnancy, disability and leave policies, or would like to arrange training for your company, contact us.