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Pregnancy’s Not a Disability, But the ADA Helps Pregnant Workers

At the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), we hear stories all the time about pregnant workers that experience complications and cannot continue to do their jobs without a change in their daily work. Women like Amy Crosby, who experienced intense shooting pains up her back and arms due to pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome. Amy’s doctor gave her a note stating that she was not to lift more than 20 pounds. Or women like Hilda Guzzman, who stood on her feet for eight-to-ten hours at a time and experienced premature labor pains when she became pregnant. She asked her employer for a stool to sit on while working the cash register. Both Amy and Hilda’s employers initially refused to accommodate their pregnancy-related impairments and they were forced out of their jobs. Amy was able to come to a resolution with her employer that allowed her to keep her job. Hilda did not—and without an accommodation, was unable to work for the remainder of her pregnancy.

Here’s the good news—women like Amy and Hilda are not left without legal protections.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment (among other things) and requires reasonable accommodations in the workplace. In 2008, workers gained new rights under the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA). The ADAAA significantly expanded the universe of disabilities that employers are required to reasonably accommodate—meaning, an employer must make a modification or adjustment in the employee’s daily work that helps an employee do his or her job, if the employer can do so without undue hardship.

Pregnancy is not a disability, and many women make it through their pregnancies without needing any type of accommodation. However, some women experience complications and pregnancy-related impairments and need accommodations to be able to continue working safely.

NWLC posted a new fact sheet today, The Amended Americans with Disabilities Act Protects Pregnant Workers, outlining how the amended ADA now requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for a broad range of temporary and less severe disabilities, including, for example, pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome that prevents an employee from lifting 20 pounds for a few months. 

As a result, fewer pregnant workers will be forced off the job at the moment they can least afford it. With the ADAAA, many workers with pregnancy-related impairments can stay in their jobs, provide support to their growing families, and protect their health and the health of their pregnancies.


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