Washington: Healthy Start Act Requires Accommodation for Pregnant Employees, With or Without Disability

APPLIES TO

All Employers of 15+ WA Employees

EFFECTIVE

January 1, 2018

QUESTIONS?

Contact HR On-Call

(888) 378-2456

Washington State’s Healthy Starts Act (the “Act”) requires covered employers to provide pregnant employees with reasonable accommodations.  In contrast to federal and other state anti-discrimination laws, some accommodations must be provided regardless of disability or medical certification, and regardless of whether such accommodations may cause the employer undue hardship.

The Act applies to employers of 15 or more Washington employees.  Key provisions of the Act are summarized below.

  • Accommodations that must be provided, regardless of certification or hardship. If an employee requests any of these accommodations, an employer must provide them.  An employer is in fact prohibited from requesting certification for the below accommodations:
    • Limitation of lifting up to 17 lbs;
    • Offering more frequent, longer, or flexible restroom breaks;
    • Modifying a no food or drink policy;
    • Making seating available, or allowing an employee to sit more frequently where the job typically requires standing.
  • Accommodations that may be provided, depending on certification or hardship. If an employee requests any of the below accommodations, an employer may request certification from the employee’s health care provider.  Employers should be prepared to engage in the interactive process to determine whether the company can reasonably accommodate the pregnant employee’s request.
    • Modifying work schedules, transitioning to part-time, job restructuring, or transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position;
    • Assistance with manual labor and greater limitations on lifting;
    • Allowing flexibility in scheduling to accommodate prenatal visits;
    • Any other accommodation the employee may request, which must be given consideration in conjunction with information provided by the Washington Department of Labor and Industries or the employee’s health care provider.
  • Generally prohibited actions. Employers may not:
    • Refuse to make reasonable accommodations for an employee if there is no undue hardship;
    • Take adverse action against an employee who requests, uses, or declines use of an accommodation;
    • Deny employment opportunities to an otherwise qualified employee due to a need for a reasonable accommodation required by the Act;
    • Require the employee to take a leave of absence if a reasonable accommodation can be provided instead.

Action Items

  1. Review the text of the Act here.
  2. Have handbooks and other policy documents reviewed for compliance with the expanded criteria of the Act, including the types of accommodations that must be provided, irrespective of certification or hardship.
  3. Have managers trained on requirements and procedures.
  4. Subscribers can call our HR On-Call Hotline at (888) 378-2456 for further assistance.

Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser.

© 2017 ManagEase, Incorporated.

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