Pregnancy Accommodations

Washington law provides specific civil rights protections for pregnant employees. These protections apply to an employee's pregnancy and pregnancy-related health conditions, which include health conditions during pregnancy and after the birth of the baby, such as the need to breastfeed or express milk. If a pregnant employee works for an employer with 15 employees or more, the employer is required to provide the following reasonable accommodations to the employee:

  1. Providing frequent, longer, or flexible restroom breaks;
  2. Modifying a no food or drink policy;
  3. Providing seating or allowing the employee to sit more frequently; and
  4. Refraining from lifting more than 17 pounds.

In addition, a pregnant employee may have rights to other workplace accommodation(s), as long as there is no significant difficulty or expense to the employer. These are:

  1. Job restructuring, including modifying a work schedule, job reassignment, changing a work station, or providing equipment;
  1. Providing a temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position;
  1. Scheduling flexibility for prenatal visits;
  2. Providing reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for two years after the child's birth each time the employee has need to express the milk and providing a private location, other than a bathroom, if such a location exists at the place of business or worksite, which may be used by the employee to express breast milk. If the business location does not have a space for the employee to express milk, the employer shall work with the employee to identify a convenient location and work schedule to accommodate their needs; and
  3. Providing any further accommodations the employee may need.

Employers may not ask for written certification from a healthcare professional for the accommodations in 1–4 above. Employers may request written certification from a health care professional regarding the need for the accommodations in 5–9 above, or for restrictions on lifting 17 pounds or less.

Employers are prohibited from retaliating against pregnant employees who request one of these changes, denying employment opportunities to pregnant employees who are otherwise qualified, or requiring pregnant employees to take leave if an alternative is available. Additionally, pregnant employees with a pregnancy-related disability may have rights in addition to those listed here.

 

More worker rights coming in 2019-20

Starting in 2020, Washington will be the fifth state in the nation to offer paid family and medical leave benefits to workers. The program will be funded by premiums paid by both employees and many employers, and will be administered by the Employment Security Department (ESD). This insurance program will allow workers to take necessary time off when they welcome a new child into their family, are struck by a serious illness or injury, or need to take care of an ill or ailing relative. As directed by the Legislature, premium payments begin on Jan. 1, 2019 and benefits can be taken starting Jan. 1, 2020.

For more information, see Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) (www.esd.wa.gov).

 

The Civil Rights Division of the Attorney General's Office enforces this law and can accept complaints if you believe your pregnancy accommodation rights have been violated. You may contact the Attorney General's Office at pregnancy@atg.wa.gov or by leaving a message on their toll-free line at 833-389-2427. You may also submit a complaint using their online form.


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