Is it legal to lay off a pregnant woman because she can not lift more then 20 lbs in her last trimester?

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Is it legal to lay off a pregnant woman because she can not lift more then 20 lbs in her last trimester?

Also, would I qualify for unemployment? I cannot find anything in the company handbook that says they would lay me off if I could not lift more then 20 lbs. I have also never been told by anyone working for the company that this might happen. The company sent a form for my doctor to fill out and after the doctor wrote in that I am not permitted to lift over 20 lbs HR called me and said that until after the baby is born I am not permitted to come back to work. I was planning to work until the baby was born and then take my maternity leave. I have not been able to save up enough money to pay the mortgage for the next 4.

Asked on October 26, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

The key issue is: can your job be done if you can't lift over 20 lbs? If there is a reasonable (not too disruptive or expensive to the employer) way to do your job without lifting 20 lbs or more, then your employer should have accomodated your restriction and not laid you off. On the other hand, if you can't do your job without lifting more than that--e.g., you are health aid who must be able to lift patients; you work in the stockroom or loading dock, and must be able to lift heavy inventory--then the employer could likely lay you off, since an employer is not required to retain or pay an employee who cannot do her job.

If you believe that your job could have been done with the restriction, then may have been discriminated against; in this case, you should contact your state's equal/civil rights agency, or speak with an employment law attorney, about bringing a claim.

If you were properly laid off for this reason, you would most likely be eligible for unemployment benefits.


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