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Do You Know What Philadelphia Law Says about Pregnant Workers?

September 18, 2015 Pregnancy Discrimination

Expectant moms may not be aware of how city laws affect them

Quiz: A woman has a job in which she’s required to regularly lift heavy items. If she becomes pregnant, does her employer have a legal obligation to modify her duties to protect her and her unborn child’s health?

Yes. Federal law protects pregnant women’s safety on the job.

It depends on where she lives. Federal law does not provide blanket protection for pregnant women’s health or safety at work; however, some state and municipal laws address this topic.

No. Employers are free to use their own discretion when accommodating pregnant workers.

Correct answer: B

People are often surprised to learn that the federal government doesn’t offer specific protection for pregnant women’s safety on the job. Women may seek job accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for conditions related to pregnancy, but pregnancy is not enough to trigger ADA coverage in and of itself.

However, some states and municipalities have laws that require employers to make accommodations for pregnant women. For example, the New Jersey Pregnant Worker’s Fairness Act generally allows expectant mothers to seek job accommodations because of pregnancy.

In the case of our quiz question, let’s assume the woman lives in Philadelphia. While Pennsylvania law does not address pregnancy, Philadelphia law does. So if the woman worked in Philadelphia, she may be entitled to certain job modifications.

Let’s take a look at the how Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance (FPO) deals with pregnant women’s rights, health, and safety at work.

Pregnancy Protection in Philadelphia

The FPO was amended in January 2014 to specifically govern how pregnancy is handled in the workplace in Philadelphia. The amendment states that women cannot be discriminated against because of pregnancy, childbirth, or pregnancy-related conditions.

But it goes further than that. It also states that women may be entitled to job modifications to accommodate their needs related to pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions.

So what does that mean exactly?

It means that women can request changes to their job duties or to their work environments on the basis of pregnancy. That could include things such as the following:

restroom breaks

periodic rest if a woman’s job requires her to stand for long periods of time

assistance with manual labor

disability leave after childbirth

reassignment to a vacant position

job restructuring

How It Works

Pregnant women who work in Philadelphia generally aren’t required to bring in doctors’ notes or other documentation regarding pregnancy before seeking accommodations under the FPO. Rather, the law states that a woman must simply request an accommodation due to pregnancy.

Keep in mind that the FPO is not a blank check for pregnant women to get special treatment on the job. Requested accommodations must be relevant to the essential functions of the person’s job.

In addition, employers aren’t required to provide accommodations that would pose an “undue hardship” for the business. Undue hardships might include job changes that would be extremely expensive compared to the employer’s overall financial resources or that would disrupt business operations. For example, a woman may not be able to force a small business owner to purchase costly equipment that could have a significant negative impact on the bottom line.

What It Means To You

As with most laws that govern job accommodations, it’s important to examine a woman’s individual needs and her employment circumstances as they relate to various local, state, and federal laws.

If you have questions about pregnancy discrimination or accommodations in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney who has experience navigating the specific laws in these geographic areas.

Email us at or call (267) 273-1054 for a free consultation to find out more about your rights.