KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — If you are pregnant or are in the midst of family planning, new protections just rolled out to make sure workplace environments are meeting your needs.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act passed late last year and went into effect this summer and expands current protections for those expecting. It requires employers to give reasonable accommodations to a worker’s known limitations related to their pregnancy or any medical conditions surrounding it.

The goal is to provide accommodations that will help pregnant workers do their jobs without hardship.

The act applies to employers, which include private and public sector employers with at least 15 employees, as well as Congress, federal agencies, employment agencies, and labor organizations.

“The House Committee on Education and Labor Report on the PWFA provides several examples of possible reasonable accommodations including the ability to sit or drink water; receive closer parking; have flexible hours; receive appropriately sized uniforms and safety apparel; receive additional break time to use the bathroom, eat, and rest; take leave or time off to recover from childbirth; and be excused from strenuous activities and/or activities that involve exposure to compounds not safe for pregnancy. Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations unless they would cause an “undue hardship” on the employer’s operations. An “undue hardship” is significant difficulty or expense for the employer.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In addition, employers cannot require an employee to accept an accommodation without a discussion with the employee. The fairness act does not replace federal, state, or local laws that are more protective of pregnant workers. More than 30 states and cities have laws that provide accommodations for pregnant workers. Tennessee is one of the states providing protection. 

Below you can read Tennessee’s statutes relating to pregnant workers:

Tenn. Code. Ann. § 50-10-103. – An employer employing 15 or more employees must provide a reasonable accommodation for medical needs arising from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions for an applicant of employment or an employee, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer. The employer may not require an employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided or take adverse action against the employee for requesting or using the reasonable accommodation.

Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-21-408.- If an employee has worked for the same employer full-time for at least twelve consecutive months, he or she may take four months leave for adoption, pregnancy, childbirth, or nursing an infant. Such leave shall not affect the employee’s accrued seniority, leave, or benefits, although the employer is not required to pay for such benefits during the leave period. Generally, if three months’ notice was given prior to the start of leave, the employer will be required to restore the employee, upon return, to his or her original position or to a similar position.

This act closes the gap between those cities/ states that don’t. For more information, click here.