Pregnant women face additional worries about the safety of themselves and their baby while in the workplace. A workplace accident or exposure to harmful chemicals can have devastating and life-long consequences for the worker or the baby. Fortunately, all states require employers to provide workers’ compensation to their employees.
The process for obtaining benefits can be a straightforward one, however issues such as pre-existing conditions can complicate the process. Many women may wonder if their pregnancy can be considered a pre-existing condition and how it will affect their workers’ compensation claim.
The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) prohibits employers with fifteen or more employees from discriminating based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Employers may not fire or discipline employees for getting pregnant, refuse to hire an applicant because she is pregnant, or single out a pregnant employee for worse treatment than employees who are temporarily disabled for other reasons.
In the state of New York, the New York Human Rights Law also prohibits sex discrimination, which covers discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions. New York law prohibits discrimination against pregnant applicants and employees. The states law, however, covers employers with four or more employees, not fifteen.
A worker who is unable to perform all of the tasks required of their particular job could be entitled to reasonable accommodation from their employer under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
Reasonable accommodation might include:
- Modified work schedules allowing for additional or extended breaks for restroom access
- Changing work shifts to accommodate the needs of the worker
- Modifying the methods or equipment the worker uses to perform their job
- Allowing the person to work from home
Reasons for Increased Injury
Despite all the protections the PDA provides, pregnant women are still more susceptible to an injury while at work, requiring them to be off work and file a workers’ compensation claim. Reasons include:
- Changes in a pregnant woman’s metabolism can increase her absorption of toxic chemicals
- Personal protection equipment like gloves and respirators may not fit properly as the woman’s pregnancy progresses.
- Changes to her system, lung capacity, and ligaments can increase a pregnant woman’s risk of injury or illness caused by workplace hazards.
- A fetus may be at even higher risk of being injured during the early months of pregnancy from toxic chemical exposure due to the rapid growth and organ development
If a pregnant woman suffers an injury at work, her pregnancy cannot be considered a pre-existing condition. Denial or reduction of workers’ compensation benefits on the basis of a pregnancy for a worker who is otherwise entitled to them would violate the federal PDA and the New York Human Rights Law.
A Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Can Help
If you’re pregnant and have been injured while on the job, the attorneys at Erwin, McCane & Daly can help. Our objective is to maximize your benefits to restore your immediate and future financial security. We’ll guide you through the workers’ compensation system, allowing you to focus on your pregnancy and not filing a claim by yourself. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.