As a long-time fan of Modern Family, it has been interesting to watch the characters develop over the last 10 seasons. Haley Dunphy (portrayed by Sarah Hyland) has grown from an image-obsessed high school sophomore to a hard-working professional. On November 7th, the show revealed that Haley is unexpectedly expecting. As Hyland joked in a recent Instagram post featuring her prosthetic belly, “Well I guess the cat’s outta the bag!!! Or more like the bump’s outta the shirt!”
Last week’s episode showed Haley fretting over what the unplanned pregnancy means for her career at the lifestyle brand, NERP. Having landed her dream job and a recent promotion, Haley wonders if she can even do the job while pregnant. Recent legislation aims to ensure that the answer to that question is yes.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is the federal law prohibiting discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment. If a woman is temporarily unable to perform her job due to a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, the employer must treat her the same as it treats other temporarily disabled employees (e.g., by providing light duty, alternative assignments, disability leave, unpaid leave, etc.).
In addition, impairments resulting from pregnancy (such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia) may constitute disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act, triggering the employer’s duties under the ADA to engage in the interactive process and provide a reasonable accommodation. A growing number of states have passed laws guaranteeing pregnant employees the right to accommodations in the workplace.
For example, South Carolina passed the Pregnancy Accommodations Act earlier this year. The law requires employers with at least 15 employees to provide reasonable accommodations for “medical needs arising from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.” Employers must provide written notice to all current employees and new employees during the onboarding process (or commencement of employment) that they have the right to be free from discrimination related to medical needs arising from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Employers must also post a compliant notice in a conspicuous location.
Under South Carolina law, some reasonable accommodations that employers should consider for covered individuals include, but are not limited to: granting time off, adjusting work schedules, providing food and water breaks, providing more frequent and longer bathroom breaks, accommodating lifting restrictions, and providing a private place other than a bathroom stall for expressing milk.
Employers would be well advised to follow these general tips:
- Review handbooks and related policies to ensure compliance with federal and state law;
- Ensure compliance with any notice and/or posting requirements; and
- Carefully consider any request for accommodation by a pregnant or recently pregnant employee, consulting with legal counsel to avoid any missteps.
In the meantime, it will be interesting to see how Haley navigates life as a soon-to-be parent and whether her boss, Nicole Rosemary Page (founder of NERP, portrayed by Mira Sorvino) will be accommodating.