Are Pregnant Employees Entitled to Light Duty? | Mann & Elias

Pregnancy Discrimination at Work

If you are expecting, recently given birth or have medical conditions resulting from your pregnancy it is best to know your rights in the workplace. It’s not fair that employers are getting away with discriminating against employees because they became pregnant. Getting fired or treated with bias and ill intent is unlawful – and hiring an experienced employment attorney in Los Angeles will make a significant difference if you choose to sue the employer for retaliating against you and your family.
Pregnancy Discrimination in California

Forty-three years ago, Congress passed The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA) to prevent employers from using pregnancy to make decisions about one’s job. Examples of such treatment include:

  • Termination of employment.
  • Choosing not to hire due to pregnancy.
  • Denial of employment benefits and bonuses.
  • Limiting work hours (vs. adjusting workload).

On a federal level the act not only mandates that sex discrimination is prohibited – especially toward pregnant women, but also qualifies expecting mothers to receive the same accommodations as employees with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This is normally an option for expecting mothers with diagnosed medical complications. For regular pregnancies women might seek temporary disability until after the baby is born, like light duty. In any case, if you were denied proper accommodations, a Los Angeles lawyer for pregnancy mistreatment can negotiate on your behalf – and build a case if you choose to take legal action later down the road.

Although the pregnancy discrimination act is primarily intended for mid to large-sized companies, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits employers of companies of more than five people from acting maliciously.

What is Light Duty?


The term “light duty” is associated with several different meanings in the workplace. For a pregnant woman, it can refer to a temporary or long-term modification for work. The company is responsible for providing accommodations that align with government mandated policies. Jobs can offer a light duty assignment to pregnant women to keep them working with ease. However, an employer is not required to create light duty work If employees are not vocal about the need for a change in workload.

Light Duty Work Can Include:
  • Taking inventory.
  • Working a desk job.
  • Performing maintenance checks.
  • Working from home (when needed).
  • Avoiding exposure to chemicals and harsh substances.
  • Performing office tasks and duties.

As a soon-to-be mom, whether you stand on your feet all day or sit at a desk, you are entitled to make a work-decision that is right for you and your child.

Requesting Time Off is Acceptable


Like job-protected family leave, if a worker cannot perform well due to health conditions, he or she still has a right to take leave Keep in mind that getting light work duties can limit how much time off gets approved outside of federal and state restrictions. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), pregnant women can request up to twelve weeks for prenatal care, parent leave and certain medical reasons (ex. morning sickness). Additionally, pregnancy disability leave provides additional time off for up to four months. However, you may need to hire an experienced lawyer if you are eligible (meet all requirements) but were denied. It is against the law for the company to prevent you from initiating job protected leave.

Here is a common example of requesting light duty: an employee works in a warehouse to process, file, and ship customer orders. Normally, she would lift and ship boxes weighing between 40-50 pounds. Now that she is pregnant, the doctor warned her of the associated risks for lifting or carrying more than 20 pounds. She is thinking of asking her boss for temporary light-duty but makes note, at her company it is only for employees that have been injured at work.

Unfortunately, it varies per person, and changes in workload depend on different company policies. In this situation, employers should be able to provide accommodations, as they would for employees that are disabled or sustained injuries. It can also depend on the job itself and how requests are generally managed for similar situations.

There is a strong chance, pregnant women will get approved for light duty work, as the company keeps the employee working instead of taking time off. However, if they fail to adjust one’s schedule or task load it can result in a serious injury. Companies try to limit access to workers’ compensation benefits when needed, and it can have adverse consequences.

Getting denied any form of assistance to work in safe conditions, while expecting, is a form of pregnancy discrimination. As an employee, she can sue the company for failing to provide an inclusive environment, where employees are treated differently than non-pregnant employees. Whether it is more convenient to avoid expensing the changes workers need or prevent people from taking time off – it makes for a strong case.

Call Mann & Elias If You Were Denied Light Duty


The Law Offices of Mann & Elias is an employment law firm that provides guidance and legal support for individuals facing issues in the workplace. We represent clients at every level of the state and federal court systems in lawsuits regarding discrimination, wrongful termination, unpaid wages, and more. When your case is in our hands, we hope to minimize stress and concerns associated with work.

Workplace disputes and negotiations can be complicated and uncomfortable between an employee and employer. In many cases an employer can retaliate, causing individuals to feel that they are at a great disadvantage in the company. When you retain one of our lawyers, you will be well-protected and advised. While there are thousands of lawyers to choose from, we strongly believe our success is based on:

  • 50+ years of trial experience
  • Excellent advocacy skills
  • Intense preparation and research
  • Quality care

Since our partnership began over 20 years ago, we have settled hundreds of claims, completed 100 jury and bench trials, and recovered more than $18 million in settlements. In the end, our goal is to understand what you need and achieve the best outcome for you by focusing on those needs. For dedicated representation with no upfront fees, give us a call at 323-866-9564 or email info@mannelias.com

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