New West Virginia law requires accommodations for pregnant employees

by John R. Merinar, Jr., and Carolyn A. Wade

A new West Virginia law taking effect June 4 means employers in the Mountain State must make reasonable accommodations to a job applicant’s or employee’s known limitations involving pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

The Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act amends the West Virginia Human Rights Act. Under the law, the applicant or employee must provide written documentation from a healthcare provider that specifies her limitations and suggests accommodations to address them. The employer must provide the accommodations unless they would result in an undue hardship on the operation of the business.

Also under the new law, employers can’t:

  • Require a pregnant employee to take leave under any leave law or policy if some other reasonable accommodation can be provided;
  • Require a pregnant employee or applicant to accept an accommodation that she doesn’t want to accept; or
  • Deny employment or job opportunities to the applicant or employee by refusing to make a reasonable accommodation.

The new law reflects the frustration of many pregnant workers at being forced to take time off—generally unpaid—when less drastic measures would be adequate. It also reflects the tendency, often well-intentioned but not always well received, of some managers to overstate the hazards associated with pregnancy. As has always been the case under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the new West Virginia law requires employers to base employment decisions on current, reliable medical information, not stereotypes or preconceptions about pregnancy.

For more information on the West Virginia Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act, see “Accommodations for pregnant employees: now more than ever, the law” in the May issue of West Virginia Employment Law Letter.

John R. Merinar, Jr., is an attorney with Steptoe & Johnson PLLC in Bridgeport, West Virginia. He can be reached at jack.merinar@steptoe-johnson.com. Carolyn A. Wade is of counsel with Steptoe & Johnson PLLC in Bridgeport. She can be reached at carolyn.wade@steptoe-johnson.com.

About West Virginia Employment Law Letter:
Excerpted from West Virginia Employment Law Letter and written by attorneys at the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson PLLC. WEST VIRGINIA EMPLOYMENT LAW LETTER should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general information purposes only. Anyone needing specific legal advice should consult an attorney. The State Bar of West Virginia does not certify specialists in the law, and we do not claim certification in any listed area. For further information about the content of this article, please contact any of the attorneys at Steptoe & Johnson PLLC.
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