REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION FOR PREGNANT EMPLOYEE

pregnancy discriminationPregnant worker was denied light duty as an accommodation was able to pursue a Pregnancy Discrimination Act claim.

Often employers will discharge a pregnant employee based on her inability to do strenuous manual work such as heavy lifting even when other work is available.  In some circumstances, such a decision can form the basis of a pregnancy discrimination claim under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

A recent federal pregnancy discrimination case out of Illinois (Babak v. Bright Star Ambulance, Inc., (ND Illinois, 16-cv-10397) Feb. 2019), the court allowed a pregnancy EMT worker to go forward with her pregnancy discrimination claim based on not providing a desk job as a temporary reasonable accommodation.  In the case, the EMT worker’s supervisor tried to allow the employee to work a desk job after she encountered a 600 pound patient. After the encounter, the pregnant employee asked if she could do office work for the remainder of her pregnancy.  Despite the supervisor requesting the assignment, the company said no and that no such position was available. The employee was instead told that she was being let go but the employee understood that she could be rehired after her pregnancy. While the parties disputed whether the company fired the employee, whether the employee willingly took maternity leave, whether the employee was forced to take the maternity leave or whether the employee quit, the court concluded that a reasonable jury could conclude that she was either fired or that she was forced to take leave.  Either could support a pregnancy discrimination claim.

The important take-away from this case is that under certain circumstances, reasonable accommodations may be required to accommodate pregnant employees when such requested accommodation is currently available.

If you believe you have been denied a reasonable accommodation based on pregnancy, please call Thompson Legal Center for a free, confidential consultation at 813-769-3900.