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New Federal Law Expands Protections for Pregnant Workers

Pregnancy poses special challenges for working women. If you’re a pregnant worker, you might need to change your work space, forego or modify some of your normal tasks or take off work for medical care. However, employers are not always willing to make all of the accommodations that may be needed. Fortunately, a new federal law enhances the rights of workers who are pregnant, giving birth or affected by medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) gives workers within its coverage the same protections that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accords to disabled workers. A key part of the ADA is that employers generally must make a reasonable accommodation that would allow a disabled worker to do the essential functions of their job, unless doing so would create an undue hardship for the operation of the employer’s business. A reasonable accommodation is a change to the disabled worker’s working conditions.

The PWFA requires employers with at least 15 employees to make a reasonable accommodation in the case of any physical or mental condition related to, affected by or arising out of pregnancy, childbirth or other medical conditions of a qualified worker. The physical or mental condition need not be a disability. As with the ADA, the accommodation can be denied if it creates an undue hardship for the employer.

A qualified worker is one who:

  • Can perform the essential functions of your job with or without a reasonable accommodation
  • Is only temporarily unable to perform those functions
  • Can perform those functions in the near future

Pregnancy cannot disqualify a worker because it’s only a temporary condition.

Furthermore, an employer cannot force an employee take a paid or unpaid leave if a better alternative is available, nor can they deny another employment opportunity or take other adverse actions relating to the terms, conditions or privileges of employment.

To take advantage of the new law’s protections, you must notify your employer of your pregnancy or of the related condition for which you seek an accommodation. The law requires an interactive process in which you and your employer discuss possible options in a good faith effort to find one that works for both of you. Your employer may not force you to accept an accommodation that is not the result of this interactive process. A pregnancy discrimination attorney can assist you throughout the negotiations and can pursue legal action to vindicate your rights if a reasonable accommodation is not granted.

Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C., with offices in Hackensack, has wide experience championing the rights of workers throughout northern New Jersey. Call us at 551-245-8894 or contact us online to set up an appointment.

Neil  H.  Deutsch Attorney Photo
Neil H. Deutsch

Neil H. Deutsch has been practicing law for over 35 years and is known as a skilled negotiator in employment and discrimination law. He believes in a bottom-line approach of risk analysis and cost effectiveness for his clients. "Case evaluation is something we take seriously," says Mr. Deutsch who seeks top net dollar for his…

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Bruce L. Atkins
Senior Partner

Bruce L. Atkins is the Senior Managing Partner at Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt P.C., a prominent plaintiff employment law firm in the tri-state area. Mr. Atkins believes employees’ rights should be aggressively pursued when they’ve been wrongfully dealt with by their employers. He brings this philosophy to his practice when considering each case and its…

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Adam J. Kleinfeldt

Adam J. Kleinfeldt joined Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C. in March of 2015.  He primarily represents individuals in employment litigation such as discrimination, retaliation and whistle blowing matters. He has extensive experience in all phases of the litigation process. Adam has obtained significant results for his clients, including a $525,000 jury verdict in a sexual…

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Debra M. McGarvey

Debra M. McGarvey joined Deutsch Atkins & Kleinfeldt, P.C. in December 2019. She has extensive experience defending employees and employers in state and federal court in employment litigation matters. She has represented clients on various issues arising out of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA), the…

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Carly Skarbnik Meredith

Carly Skarbnik Meredith, Esq. is a Partner at the firm. Carly has focused her career exclusively in the field of employment law. She has a plethora of experience representing both employees and employers with their employment issues, needs, and concerns. She believes representing both employees and employers has made her an extremely well-rounded client advocate.…


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