Washington has a new “Healthy Starts Act” that requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers without regard to whether they are actually disabled. Upon request by employees who are pregnant or have pregnancy-related health conditions, covered employers are required to provide the following accommodations:
More frequent, longer, or flexible restroom breaks;
Modifications to policies prohibiting food or drink in the workplace;
Added seating or more frequent sitting; and
Limited lifting over 17 pounds.
There is no “undue hardship” exception to providing the above accommodations, and they must be provided upon request regardless of whether the employee is disabled.
Employers are further required to provide any other pregnancy accommodation an employee requests unless the employer can demonstrate that doing so would impose an undue hardship. Other accommodations listed in the Act include: job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules, schedule flexibility, reassignment to a vacant position, temporary transfer, acquiring or modifying equipment or devices, modifying the employee’s work station, and providing assistance with manual labor or lifting. Employers may require certification from the employee’s treating health care professional regarding the need for these other accommodations.
The Act strictly prohibits employers from taking any adverse action against an employee who requests, declines, or uses an accommodation. It also prohibits employers from requiring a pregnant employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation is available. The state attorney general has authority to investigate complaints and enforce these requirements. Employees also have the right to file a civil suit directly with the court for damages, attorneys’ fees, injunctive relief and other remedies. The Healthy Starts Act took effect on July 23, 2017. Check out our Legal Guide, “Pregnancy and Disability,” for more help on this topic.
Tips: We recommend training your managers on these new requirements and updating any relevant policies and internal resources. Contact your Vigilant employment attorney if you have questions or need assistance with implementing these new requirements. Not a member? Contact us to learn about our flat fee unlimited employment law advice.