Skip to main content

West Virginia Enacts Protective Legislation for Pregnant Workers

West Virginia Enacts Protective Legislation for Pregnant Workers

While working at the Wheeling wholesale distribution center in Wheeling, WV, Lena Bell started to find it difficult to lift heavy packages while pregnant. Her doctor advised her to avoid lifting packages heavier than twenty-five pounds, but when she sought a lighter assignment at her workplace, she was subsequently terminated. Lena was unable to successfully challenge her termination because the court did not interpret the law as providing protections for her.

Women that work in physically demanding jobs often have to make the choice between keeping her job or protecting the health of her pregnancy. Although not all pregnant women have to face this difficult choice, many do, which has led to a string of states taking measures to protect women against pregnancy discrimination, such as, Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, and Texas;with city-wide protections enacted in New York City and Philadelphia. In February 2014, the WV House of Delegates unanimously passed the West Virginia Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act (PWFA) and the WV Senate passed the legislation in March. But what does this mean for West Virginia employers and employees?

Under the PWFA, employers are explicitly required to make accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions similar to the accommodations made for temporary disabilities that are not related to pregnancy. For example, providing a stool for pregnant female cashiers to avoid standing for hours or making an exception to work rules that do not allow workers to drink water while working. Under the Act, employers are required to make reasonable physical accommodations or the employer will have engaged in pregnancy discrimination. The PWFA will help to prevent forcing pregnant women to leave their jobs for pregnancy health reasons. The PWFA will ensure that pregnant women will be able to get the reasonable accommodations needed in order to continue working in a manner that is safe for pregnancy and in accordance with her health care provider’s recommendations.

As long as no undue hardship is placed on the employer, accommodations such as bathroom breaks and assistance with manual labor must be made for pregnant workers. Employers engage in pregnancy discrimination if the employer requires the employee to accept an accommodation other than the accommodation requested by the employee (as long as it is reasonable). Additionally, employers are not permitted to deny employment opportunities to a pregnant job applicant on the refusal to make reasonable accommodations. Employers are not permitted to take adverse employment actions against an individual that participates in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under the Act.

This new legislation enacted in West Virginia provides protection for frustrated pregnant workers forced to take time off of work when reasonable accommodations would enable the employee to continue working by defining unlawful employment practices and establishing remedies and enforcement.

The full text of the new Code of West Virginia can be found at Article 11B under the Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act.

WVU LAW Facebook WVU LAW Twitter WVU LAW Instagram WVU LAW LinkedIn WVU LAW Youtube Channel