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James Tarquin, P.A
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Are Pregnant Employees Entitled To An Accommodation Under Americans With Disabilities Act?

Handicapped young man with his colleagues working in office. Disabled businessman in the wheelchair and his colleagues listetning presentation of their pregnant female colleague.

Throughout the past twenty years, our Leesburg, Florida pregnancy discrimination lawyers have represented Florida employees who have been discriminated against because of pregnancy. Through their decades of experience representing pregnancy discrimination victims, our Lake County, Florida pregnancy discrimination attorneys know that in some cases an employee’s pregnancy prevents her from fulfilling the duties of her position. Under such circumstances, a pregnant employee needs accommodation in order to perform the essential functions of her position. However, because the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) does not require employers to provide pregnant employees with benefits that are not provided to non-pregnant employees, the PDA does not expressly require an employer to furnish accommodations to its pregnant employees.

Pregnant Employees’ Rights

Under the PDA, employers are only required to treat pregnant employees the same as non-pregnant employees. Thus, whether an employer is required to accommodate a pregnant employee generally depends on whether the employer accommodates non-pregnant employees. If an employer accommodates non-pregnant employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work, then the PDA requires the employer to provide a pregnant employee with a comparable accommodation. Conversely, if an employer does not accommodate pregnant employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work, then the PDA does not require the employer to provide a pregnant employee with accommodation. In other words, an employer is not required to accommodate a pregnant employee if the employer does not accommodate non-pregnant employees in a comparable situation.

Accommodation Of Pregnant Employees

Although the PDA does not expressly require an employer to accommodate pregnant employees, pregnant employees may be entitled to an accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA, unlike the PDA, expressly requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations. More specifically, the ADA mandates that employers reasonably accommodate employees who have a disability. Reasonable accommodations under the ADA can include job modification, part-time work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position, a leave of absence for medical treatment, and telecommuting.

In most cases, pregnant employees are not entitled to an accommodation under the ADA because courts have consistently ruled that pregnancy, standing alone, does not constitute a disability within the meaning of the ADA. However, courts have also determined that conditions and complications related to pregnancy can constitute a disability within the meaning of the ADA. As explained by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida in Mayorga v. Alorica, Inc., 2012 WL 3043021 (S.D. Fla. July 25, 2012), “where a medical condition arises out of pregnancy and causes an impairment separate from symptoms associated with a healthy pregnancy, or significantly intensifies the symptoms associated with a healthy pregnancy, such medical condition may fall within the ADA’s definition of disability.” Thus, while pregnancy, standing alone, generally is not a disability, a pregnant employee may be entitled to an accommodation under the ADA if she can show that a pregnancy-related condition or complication qualifies as a disability under the ADA.

In this article, our Leesburg, Florida pregnancy discrimination attorneys explain how the recent decision by the U.S. District Court for Maryland in Kande v. Dimensions Health Corporation, Case No. 8:18-cv-2306 (D. Md. Dec. 12, 2020) demonstrates that pregnant employees are entitled to an accommodation under the ADA when a pregnancy-related condition or complication rises to the level of a disability within the meaning of the ADA.

Pregnant Employee Claims Disability

In that case, Namonch Kande (Kande) brought a disability discrimination case against her employer, Dimensions Health Corporation (DHC), pursuant to the ADA. Kande contends that her pregnancy-related complications rose to the level of a disability for purposes of the ADA and DHC violated the ADA by refusing to provide her with accommodation for her disability.

In August 2015, Kande began working for DHC as an Electric Medical Records (EMR) Data Analyst. In December 2015, Kande learned that she was six weeks pregnant. In March 2016, Kande informed her direct supervisor, Bolden, that she was pregnant. On April 14, 2016, Kande was admitted to the hospital due to pregnancy-related complications, including cramping, a low-lying placenta, and a marginal cord insertion. Following her discharge from the hospital, Kande’s doctor told Kande that she should rest at home and limit her activity. Kande told her doctor that she could not afford to take time off from work and instead suggested working two to three days from home.

Pregnant Employee Denied Accommodation

Kande’s doctor provided her with a note to give to DHC regarding her pregnancy-related complications and advising that Kande rest at home for the remainder of her pregnancy.. Kande provided the doctor’s note to Bolden and another employee, Venson, and asked for permission to work from home two to three days a week as an accommodation for the complications with her pregnancy. In support of her request to work from home, Kande pointed out that she had worked from home on multiple occasions.

Kande alleges that she heard nothing back from Bolden or Venson regarding her accommodation request to work from home two to three days a week. During the litigation, DHC claimed that the company “continued to determine whether [Kande’s] responsibilities could be conducted remotely.” On June 11, 2016, Kande was at work when she had to be rushed to the hospital due to a pregnancy-related complication. On June 17, 2016, Kande returned to the hospital due to the same pregnancy-related complication. On June 20, 2016, Kande was put on bed rest. That same day, Kande took a leave of absence from work pursuant to the Family Medical Leave Act. On June 30, 2016, three weeks before her estimated due date, Kande gave birth.

Pregnant Employee Entitled To Accommodation

DHC filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Kande’s disability discrimination claim. In support of its motion for dismissal, DHC argued that it was not required by the ADA to accommodate Kande because her pregnancy was not a disability within the meaning of the ADA. The trial court denied DHC’s motion for dismissal and ruled that Kande was entitled to proceed to a jury trial on the issue of whether DHC violated the ADA by failing to provide her with a reasonable accommodation for her pregnancy-related complications.

Turning to the issue of whether Kande’s pregnancy-related complications qualified as a disability for purposes of the ADA, the trial court determined that Kande’s pregnancy-related complications constituted a disability under the ADA because they were “not experienced in a normal pregnancy.” Because Kande’s pregnancy-related complications qualified as a disability within the meaning of the ADA, DHC was obligated by the ADA to provide Kande with reasonable accommodation.

Turing to the issue of whether Kande’s request to work from home two to three days a week constituted a reasonable accommodation for her disability, the trial court determined that Kande could have performed the essential functions of her EMS Data Entry job while working at home two to three days a week. The trial court reasoned that Kande’s job consisted primarily of coordination between various entities to resolve technical issues, that this work could be done largely by phone, and that whatever work she needed to do in person could be performed on the two or three days a week that she was in the office. Thus, the trial court concluded that Kande’s evidence was sufficient to establish that she could perform the essential functions of her position with reasonable accommodation. In failing to reasonably accommodate Kande’s disability by allowing her to work from home two to three days a week, the trial court concluded, a jury could reasonably find that DHC discriminated against Kande in violation of the ADA.

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The Villages, FL Discrimination Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida, and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Lake County, Florida pregnancy discrimination attorneys have dedicated their practice to vindicating the rights of employment discrimination victims, including pregnancy discrimination victims. If you have been discriminated against on the basis of pregnancy or have questions about whether you are entitled to accommodation as a pregnant employee, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Leesburg, Florida pregnancy discrimination lawyers.

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