In theory and by law, a pregnancy should not interfere with an employer’s treatment of an employee. However, during pregnancy, issues may arise that create reason for employees to experience special consideration for their condition. Employers that are open to making accommodations or adjustments for pregnant employees are making good on their duty to provide a safe and healthy work environment.
Unfortunately, even in accommodating work environments, accidents can happen. Pregnant employees who become injured at work may have to file a claim under their employer’s Workers’ Compensation program. Since pregnancy already involves some employment complications, a work injury or illness can be difficult to navigate.
Below are some answers to some commonly asked questions regarding pregnancy, workers’ comp, and employee rights.
Pregnant women who are injured on the job are urged to contact an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer for assistance.
Responsibilities of an Employer to Accommodate a Pregnant Worker
Employers are under no obligation to keep pregnant employees in a job position that they cannot perform while pregnant, but the law says they cannot remove workers from their current position based entirely on the worker’s pregnancy. This discrimination is illegal if it is based on an employee’s current pregnancy, former pregnancy, or planned future pregnancy. It is also illegal to base such employment decisions on a pregnancy-related health condition.
One example of how pregnancy may complicate work issues is when a pregnant employee requires certain accommodations to allow them to continue to do their job. Of course, an employer should be understanding of the fact that pregnancy may necessitate specific temporary adjustments. Just as an employer should seek to provide safe and healthy conditions for any employee, an employer should endeavor to accommodate a pregnant employee in a way that considers the employee’s physical limitations and medical restrictions.
If a pregnant employee, or their unborn child, should suffer an injury on the worksite, the employer may find themselves in legal trouble. Even if an unfortunate accident does not point to any liability on the part of the employer, a work accident or exposure that injures a pregnant employee or harms their unborn child would likely result in a Workers’ Compensation claim that could cost the company dearly.
Ways an Employer can Make Accommodations for the Pregnant Employee
A pregnant employee who works on their feet may require frequent breaks or a seat at their workstation. If a pregnant employee is unable to perform their usual job duties, an employer may offer other reasonable accommodations such as the following:
- Adjusting their work schedules to make time for additional or extended breaks
- Adapting work hours or shifts
- Modifying tasks, equipment, or workstation to allow the worker to do their job
- Allowing a work-from-home arrangement
What Should a Pregnant Employee Know About Workers’ Compensation after a Workplace Injury?
A claim for Workers’ Compensation comes into play if a pregnant woman becomes injured at work. Whether or not the injury is related to or threatens the pregnancy, a work injury may affect a pregnant employee differently because of the nature of their prenatal condition.
The work injury claim through the employer’s insurance is meant to cover the costs associated with work-related injuries (including medical treatment / medical bills). This is true whether it stems from an on-the-job accident or work-related exposure to harmful substances, such as airborne pollutants or toxic chemicals.
Workers’ Compensation also allows the injured employee to recover lost wages that resulted from their inability to work after the incident. It may also involve rehabilitation assistance, if the injury prevents them from returning to their same job.
The lost wages benefit should continue for the duration of the employee’s recovery from the injury. A pregnant employee’s delivery or maternity leave should not affect this arrangement. Any denial or reduction of benefits based on the employee’s pregnancy is a violation of federal employment discrimination law.
What are the Major Laws that Protect Pregnant Employees in New Jersey?
The most prevalent concern for most pregnant employees has to do with employment discrimination and parental leave policies. These two sets of employee protections can seem to complicate matters when an employee becomes injured, but they should work independent of any claim to Workers’ Compensation benefits.
Discrimination. Regarding employment discrimination, pregnancy is protected under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), employers are prohibited from treating an employee unfavorably as a result of their pregnancy, meaning that they cannot use the employee’s condition as a factor in decisions to hire, fire, or layoff any employee.
Likewise, the employer may not alter pay, job assignments, promotions, or training based on the employee’s pregnancy. Changes to other employment terms are also off limits, such as leave policies or employee health insurance coverage.
FMLA. Speaking of leave policies, each company may offer employees any of a variety of benefits with regard to parental leave. However, federal and state laws create minimum requirements for companies, with few exceptions for smaller employers.
Federal law requires employers to offer employees 12 months of parental leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to care for a newborn. This law is offered to biological mothers and fathers, as well as new adoptive or foster parents seeking to bond with their child. This law also provides leave for employees caring for other family members or dealing with an injury or occupational disease of their own.
PDA and ADA. The PDA is the federal law mentioned above that prohibits employers from making employment decisions on the basis of an employee’s pregnancy. It also requires that employers make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prevents employers from discriminating against employees with a pregnancy-related medical condition.
Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen: New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Lawyers
Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen – The People First Lawyers have been helping injured employees throughout our communities with their workers’ compensation claims since 1995. With multiple board-certified civil trial workers’ compensation attorneys on our team, we are well-equipped to handle your pregnancy workers’ compensation claim and get you the benefits you deserve.