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Do you have rights to work accommodations while pregnant?

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Pregnancy can make performing one’s typical work duties more difficult, uncomfortable and sometimes impossible. If you are currently pregnant and are experiencing difficulties doing your job because of your pregnancy or a related condition, you may wonder if you have the right to reasonable accommodations that would allow you to perform your job comfortably and safely. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission details your rights under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Per the Commission, the PDA and ADA apply to your employer if it has 15 or more employees. If this is the case, you may be able to receive accommodation from your employer that will allow you to perform your regular job in a safe manner. Examples of accommodations include more frequent breaks, ergonomic office furniture, permission to stand or sit, elimination of minor job functions, shift changes and permission to work from home.

In many cases, an employee’s right to accommodation all depends on the employer’s existing policies. If your employer accommodates employees with conditions similar to yours but that are not the result of pregnancy, it must accommodate you as well.

If you have a pregnancy-related medical condition, such as anemia, preeclampsia, sciatica, depression or gestational diabetes, that meets the ADA’s definition of “disability,” the ADA applies to your situation. A condition meets the standard if, when left untreated, it would result in the substantial limitation of a major bodily function or life activity. Examples of either or include standing, sitting, lifting, reaching, eating, sleeping, bending and concentrating, and bowel, bladder, digestive, circulatory or cardiovascular functions.

To qualify for the ADA’s protections, your condition does not have to be severe or permanent, and it does not have to result in a high degree of limitation. For instance, the ADA’s protections may apply if your condition makes performing your typical job duties more uncomfortable, difficult or time-consuming compared to before.

Though you may request accommodations at any time throughout your pregnancy, you should bear in mind that neither the PDA nor the ADA requires your employer to make changes that involve significant expense or difficulty. If there is more than one way to accommodate your condition, your employer may choose which one to make for you.