Is Refusal to Provide Light Duty Work a Violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act?

By Anne Hunter Williams

If you are pregnant and you have asked your employer for light duty work, and the employer refuses, has the employer violated the law? Most likely. In most situations, an employer must provide light duty work to a pregnant employee if light duty jobs are available. Here are a few examples:

Scenario A: Annette requests light duty because of her pregnancy. Her supervisor is aware that she is pregnant and knows that there are light duty positions available that she could perform. Nevertheless, her supervisor denies her request, telling Annette that having a pregnant worker in the workplace is just too much of a liability for the company.

Result: This is a violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). Because the employer made derogatory comments about her pregnancy, she doesn’t need to produce evidence it is not necessary for Annette to produce any evidence that other workers who weren’t pregnant received light duty.

Scenario B: ABC, Inc. has a policy or practice of providing light duty, subject to availability, for any employee who cannot perform one or more job duties for up to 90 days due to injury, illness, or a condition that would be a disability under the ADA. Julie requests a light duty assignment for a 20-pound lifting restriction related to her pregnancy. ABC denies the light duty request, claiming that pregnancy itself does not constitute an injury, illness, or disability, and that Julie has not provided any evidence that the restriction is the result of a pregnancy-related impairment that constitutes a disability under the ADA.

Result: The employer has violated the PDA because the employer’s policy treats pregnant employees differently from other employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work.

Scenario C: DEF, Inc. makes six light duty positions available to workers unable to perform one or more job duties due to an on the job injury, pregnancy, or an injury, illness, or condition that would constitute a disability under the ADA. Shannon applies for a light duty assignment as a result of work restrictions imposed by her pregnancy. The employer denies the request, claiming that all six positions are currently filled. The employee produces evidence that, in the past, the employer has provided light duty assignments to workers injured on the job even when all six assignments were filled.

Result: The employer violated the PDA. The employee has provided evidence that the policy’s restrictions were not applied equally to the pregnant worker’s request for a light duty position.

If you feel you have been discriminated against due to your pregnancy, please contact The Higgins Firm.

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