Ask the legal expert: Are pregnant employees covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act?
Attorney John Durso, Ungaretti & Harris LLP
Pregnancy alone is not considered a disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Only conditions that are the result of a physiological disorder are “impairments” under the ADA. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency charged with enforcing the ADA, has specifically stated that because pregnancy is not the result of a physiological disorder, it is not an “impairment” and therefore is not a covered condition.
However, although pregnancy itself is not considered a disability, if a pregnant employee has an impairment as a result of a pregnancy, then the employer should consider whether the resulting impairment rises to the level of a disability under the ADA, such as whether the impairment substantially limits a major life activity. An impairment in this respect would be hypertension, for example.
If a pregnant employee comes to her employer seeking reasonable accommodation for a condition resulting from the pregnancy, and not because of the pregnancy itself, then it is incumbent upon the employer under the ADA to engage in the “interactive process” to determine what accommodation, if any, the employer can provide to the employee in order for her to continue at her job. Remember, in order for the employee to be a qualified individual with a disability under the ADA, the employee must be able to perform the essential functions of her job, with or without a reasonable accommodation. What is reasonable depends on the nature of the impairment and the employee's particular job. As an employer, your duty is to engage in the interactive process with the employee in good faith.