Pregnancy Accommodation Law

Christy Monson

From our Winter 2020 e-newsletter

Oregon has a new pregnancy accommodation law. These types of accommodation requirements should be pretty familiar to employers because the ADA and Oregon law already requires that we accommodate certain employees with disabilities. However, the new law now automatically extends these requirements to pregnant women who are not otherwise covered under the ADA (because pregnancy was not automatically considered a “disability” under those laws). The new law also requires that you enter into the ADA “interactive process” with a pregnant employee-which is simply a requirement that you must sit down with the employee and ask her what you can do to help her accomplish her essential duties-and then listen and decide.

Effective January 1, if you have six or more employees (either full or part time), you must provide reasonable accommodations to employees and applicants who have some limitations related to pregnancy, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer. These types of reasonable accommodations can include, but are not limited to:

  • Acquisition or modification of equipment or devices;
  • More frequent or longer break periods or periodic rest;
  • Assistance with manual labor; or
  • Modification of work schedules or job assignments.

Employers do not have to provide reasonable accommodations if doing so would impose an undue hardship or if it would entail the employee not performing the essential functions of the job. Tread carefully regarding this determination, however, for it is not easy for an accommodation to qualify as an “undue hardship.” To qualify, the requested accommodation must require significant or substantial difficulty or expense. Some of the factors to consider when determining if an undue hardship exists are: the cost, your financial resources, your number of employees, the impact on operations, and the nature of the services you provide.

It’s important to note that this new law also prohibits employers from being overprotective, such as imposing unnecessary accommodations or requiring a pregnant employee to take leave when other reasonable accommodations are available (such as rest breaks or a special chair/workspace).

Employers must also provide written notification of the Employer Accommodation for Pregnancy Act to new hires at the time of hire, within 180 days of the Act’s effective date (i.e., by June 29, 2020) to all existing employees, and within 10 days to an employee who has informed her employer of a pregnancy. Employers must also post signs on their premises informing their employees of the protections under the Act.

Here’s a good synopsis of the new law: