March 12, 2020

Pregnant Women, COVID-19 and Work

The situation around COVID-19 is in flux as many employers, universities, and governments seek to contain the spread of disease by encouraging "social distancing." Per the CDC, social distancing means remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible. A major goal of encouraging social distancing is to decrease the spread of illness and protect our health care system's capacity so that hospitals can treat people who are infected with COVID-19 and maintain operations for patients who need medical care for other reasons, including giving birth.

There currently is no scientific evidence that COVID-19 creates an increased risk for adverse outcomes for pregnant women. That said, pregnant women may be more susceptible to respiratory infections, including COVID-19, and should practice precautions

What if you are pregnant and your workplace has not instituted remote work, or you are unable to work remotely? Know your rights to be protected and stay out of the workplace to prevent exposure.

  • Consult your paid sick leave policy. NYC requires that employers with five or more employees provide 5 days of paid sick leave per year. Sick leave can be used for your own illness, to care for a family member, or if your children's child care facilities have closed. Westchester County also offers paid sick leave if your office is closed due to a public health emergency. Your employer may also provide other paid sick leave, consult your handbook to understand your employer’s policy. 
  • Ask for a reasonable accommodation. People with disabilities, including those who are pregnant, have the right to request reasonable accommodations from their employer. A reasonable accommodation is an action taken by the employer to allow the employee to reasonably perform their job duties. Accommodations can include working remotely, changing hours to avoid peak commute times, or even taking unpaid leave. Employers are required to engage in an "interactive process" with employees, to explore the feasibility of providing the requested accommodation. Employers in New York must explain why they are denying a request, citing to a legitimate business reason that the requested accommodation poses an undue hardship on them. In NYC, employers need to go further, putting their denial in writing.

If you have any questions about your rights in the workplace during pregnancy, or how to accommodate your pregnant employees, please review our Pregnancy Project resources or contact our office.

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