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Pregnancy Complications as a Disability & Telecommuting as a Reasonable Accommodation

Pregnancy Complications as a Disability & Telecommuting as a Reasonable Accommodation

The law now dictates that pregnancy, by itself, does not constitute a disability protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, as shown in the recent case of Kande v. Dimensions Health  Corp., an employee’s pregnancy-related complications can rise to the level of a protected disability under the ADA. The Maryland federal court point-blank stated: “[A]lthough pregnancy itself is not an impairment within the meaning of the ADA, and thus is never on its own a disability, some pregnant workers may have impairments related to their pregnancies that qualify as disabilities under the ADA.” The Court, however, limited its ruling, adding that “only abnormal complications may qualify as impairments under the ADA.”

In this case, the employee experienced a number of conditions that increased the risk of suffering an abruption (in which the placenta detaches from the cervix, potentially leading to termination of the pregnancy). She also provided her doctor’s testimony that reduced activity and resting at home was necessary for the pregnancy, which the Court viewed as strong evidence of protected impairment.

The Maryland federal court was seemingly repulsed by the employer’s argument that the fact that the employee had a successful pregnancy was evidence that she had no disability. The Court stated: “Taking into account whether a plaintiff actually worked without incident after the denial of an accommodation would allow defendants to deny coverage to employees and avoid liability so long as the employees continued to work and did not actually suffer the health consequences for which they are at risk. This cannot be the law.”

After determining that the employee’s pregnancy complications amounted to a protected ADA disability, the Court then had to decide whether the employer failed to reasonably accommodate by refusing to let her work from home – i.e., telecommute. The Court held that the employer had failed to accommodate based on three facts:

  • First, the Court held that the employee’s accommodation request to work from home was a just need to avoid the commute to and from her office. Rather, the Court found that not driving was required through her doctor’s instructions for rest and avoidance of sitting for long periods.
  • Second, the Court noted that working from home was medically necessary, stating that “it was necessary for Plaintiff to rest at home and limit her activity due to her disability, and not a matter of mere preference.”
  • Third, the Court found that the employee had presented sufficient evidence that she could perform all the essential functions of the job from home. The Court rejected the employer’s attempts to find tasks that required the employee to be at the office, when they were not essential functions of her job.

If you would like want more information regarding pregnancy, disability discrimination or the duty of an employer to accommodate (including by allowing a worker to telecommute), the attorneys at Lebau & Neuworth are well-experienced with these types of cases. Please contact us at 888-456-2529 or lebauneuworth.com/contact-us.

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