Pregnancy is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However the ADA does not consider a normal pregnancy to be a disability. If you experience high-risk complications that substantially limit a major life activity, you may be considered disabled under the ADA and, therefore, entitled to reasonable accommodation to perform your job.
Twenty five percent of expectant women will experience one or more complications. These complications may cause you to miss work. The ADA does not address income replacement due to a disability. This is what you need to know:
- ADA eligibility guidelines
- When pregnancy is considered a qualifying impairment
- What accommodations must your employer make
Pregnancy under ADA Eligibility
The ADA is one of several maternity leave laws in the U.S. that protects job rights for women and families. Each has its own set of eligibility guidelines. All employers that have 15 or more employees must comply with the ADA. A person is considered disabled under the act if he or she has:
- An impairment that significantly limits one or more activities of daily living
- A written record establishing the limitations
- Or a reasonable person would recognize the impairment – it is obvious
Pregnancy as Disability under ADA
Normal pregnancy is not covered under ADA, as it is not a result of a physiological disorder. There are certain job protections for all pregnant women under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
Complications of Pregnancy
Complications prior to childbirth may be eligible as a protected status under ADA. For example, a woman who suffers from hypertension while expecting may qualify for protected status. It must be shown that her hypertension limits, or is regarded as limiting a major life activity, which is often defined as a task that most people are able to perform adequately with very little difficulty.
If a pregnancy-related condition makes it difficult to perform one or more of these activities, then ADA provisions may apply, and the employer must make compliant accommodations.
Bed Rest Disability Leave
Twenty five percent of pregnancies may experience one or more complications. If is quite common for doctors to order bed rest when a pregnant woman experiences a high-risk pregnancy. Bed rest translates into a sustained absence from work during a pregnancy disability leave.
The ADA can’t protect you unless you are able to continue working. However the Family Medical Leave Act may provide job protected leave during an absence from work due to bed rest or high risk pregnancy. Not every employee qualifies, and additional job protections may be available via state maternity leave laws.
In most cases a pregnancy disability leave is unpaid, unless short term disability was purchased prior to conception. Some women may be covered under a state disability program.
ADA Accommodations for Pregnancy
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination in all employment practices. This includes a wide array of job practices ranging from hiring and firing, to compensation and advancement.
An employer must make reasonable accommodations if you qualify under the law. A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or work environment that enables the disabled person to perform essential job functions.
What is most interesting to note is that if you are experiencing a normal and health pregnancy you are not protected under the law – you do not meet the criteria for disability under the law. Only women experiencing pregnancy complications have these protections. Don’t ask for any special treatment from your employer unless you qualify.