Washington’s new pregnancy accommodation law went into effect this week.

Washington’s new pregnancy accommodation law went into effect this week.

In June, the Washington Legislature passed the Healthy Starts Act, changing pregnancy accommodations for women in Washington workplaces. The law which went into effect on July 23, 2017, applies to businesses with 15 or more employees. Washington joins 18 other states, the District of Columbia and four cities, with a law requiring accommodations for pregnant workers.

In accordance with the new law, employers should consider what provisions they have for pregnant women in the workplace and provide the following accommodations for a pregnant employee:

  1. Provide longer, more frequent or flexible restroom breaks.
  2. Modify any no-food or no-drink policy.
  3. Provide seating or allow the employee to sit more frequently; and
  4. Limit lifting to 17 pounds or less.

In addition, a pregnant employee may have rights to other workplace accommodation(s), as long as there is no significant difficulty or expense to the employer. These are:

  1. Job restructuring, including modifying a work schedule, job reassignment, changing a work station, or providing equipment;
  2. Providing a temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position;
  3. Scheduling flexibility for prenatal visits;
  4. Providing any further accommodations the employee may need.

Employees may request further accommodations to which an employer must give reasonable consideration in consultation with the Department of Labor and Industries or the employee’s health care provider.

Employers may not ask for written certification from a healthcare professional for the accommodations in 1–4 above. Employers may request written certification from a health care professional regarding the need for the accommodations in 5–8 above, or for restrictions on lifting less than 17 pounds.

Employers can show that they do not have to provide different accommodations if doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer’s operations. However, employers cannot not claim hardship for the following accommodations: frequent, longer, or flexible restroom breaks; food or drink policies; seating; and lifting limits. Businesses are also not required to create additional employment they would not otherwise have created.

The Washington State Attorney General is responsible for investigation and enforcement. Employees may file a complaint with the AG or bring a civil cause of action in court for violations and recover actual damages, costs, and attorneys’ fees.

Learn more about the new law here.

Read more
Categories: Washington State