If you have even a small workforce, you are probably going to have to deal with an employee’s pregnancy eventually. After all, according to the National Women’s Law Center, about 2% of the U.S. workforce is pregnant at any given time.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act applies to U.S. employers with 15 or more employees. This federal law prevents employers from discriminating against pregnant workers. It also allows pregnant women to request reasonable accommodations to help them do their jobs.
The risks of standing during pregnancy
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pregnant women should limit the time they spend on their feet. Indeed, excessive standing can increase a woman’s chances of having pregnancy complications, including miscarriage. Likewise, pregnancy-related hormonal changes can affect a woman’s joints, making it more difficult for her to stand comfortably for long periods of time.
A request for reasonable accommodations
Your pregnant employees may have a legal right to ask for reasonable accommodations. Depending on their job duties and your operations, being able to sit during shifts might be reasonable. This is especially true if sitting does not affect productivity or your bottom line. By contrast, not wanting sitting workers to appear unprofessional might not be a good reason to disallow a pregnant worker’s request to sit.
The challenges you face
Not permitting pregnant employees to sit during their shifts could expose your company to legal liability. Specifically, affected workers may be able to argue successfully that you have discriminated against them because of their pregnancies.
Ultimately, to stay out of trouble, it is important to consider carefully any pregnant worker’s request for reasonable accommodations.