Pregnant women in the workplace who suffer occupational injuries may still obtain workers’ compensation benefits, but the issue of pre-existing conditions such as pregnancy may complicate the process. When employees suffer injuries as a result of workplace accidents, they often rely on the state’s workers’ compensation program to cover their medical bills and help keep them afloat until they recover and can return to work. The legal rights of a pregnant woman entitle a worker to these same benefits if injured on the job, regardless of her condition.
Suffering an On-The-Job Injury While Pregnant
Provided their injuries were caused while performing work duties and not as a result of their conditions, pregnancy alone does not disqualify injured workers from obtaining workers’ compensation benefits. Under Nevada’s workers’ compensation law, employers in the state must provide coverage for all employees. Protected by state and federal laws against workplace discrimination and harassment, pregnant women in the workplace cannot be denied workers’ compensation benefits or receive reduced benefits based on their pregnancies. Rather, denials may occur if the injury was the result of horseplay in the workplace, the benefits were sought through fraudulent requests, the injured worker neglected to complete the necessary steps to recover benefits, the injury occurred at a work-related social event outside of normal work duties, or the employer otherwise disputes the claim.
Legal Rights of a Pregnant Woman in the Workplace
State and federal laws prohibit employers from firing, harassing, rejecting for jobs or promotions, giving lesser assignments, or otherwise discriminating against workers because they are, were, or could become pregnant. Further, employers cannot hold pregnancy-related conditions against workers, and they may have to provide accommodations to allow pregnant workers to safely perform their jobs. While these protections do not specifically address pregnant employees’ ability to recover workers’ compensation for on-the-job injuries, they do safeguard injured workers from having benefits denied simply because they were pregnant at the time the workplace accidents occurred.
Becoming Pregnant While Receiving Workers’ Compensation
Just as workers cannot have their claims denied because they were pregnant at the time their occupational injuries occurred, employees will not necessarily lose their benefits should they become pregnant while receiving workers’ compensation. People should keep in mind, however, that the state’s Workers’ Compensation Commission may stop payments in cases when workers’ injuries have improved beyond the reports or other fraudulent activity has transpired.
Workplace Hazards for Pregnant Employees
In addition to the normal occupational risks, pregnant employees may face other hazards in the workplace. For example, changes in a pregnant worker’s body may affect the fit of personal protective equipment. Using an ill-fitting respirator may expose the worker to dangerous substances. As a result, the worker may develop a serious occupational illness.
As women’s bodies change during pregnancy, they may experience changes to ligaments, lung capacity, and their immune systems. These and other changes may alter how they perform tasks or make them more susceptible to certain risks or injuries.
During pregnancy, workers may absorb some chemicals faster than they otherwise would. Due to this increased absorption, they may have an increased chance of developing occupational illnesses or suffering other health complications. For instance, some chemical disinfectants have been shown to increase the risk of preterm birth or miscarriage.
Having awareness of these dangers may help employers take the steps necessary to keep their workers, as well as their workers’ families, safe.
What Responsibility Do Employers Have?
Employers have a responsibility to maintain safe working conditions for their workers. Within reason, this extends to helping ensure the conditions keep pregnant workers as healthy as possible.
Pregnant workers may discuss their jobs duties with their physicians and employers to determine their potential risks and whether duty changes are needed. Employees who are expecting may request changes to their positions, or accept ones offered.
Under state and federal law, pregnant workers have protections. Therefore, like those with other protected conditions, employers must provide reasonable accommodations when able and called for.
Should pregnant workers suffer occupational injury or illness, whether they asked for or received job accommodations, they will generally have entitlement to workers’ compensation. The benefits they may receive include coverage of their injury- or illness-associated medical expenses and lost wages.