Washington’s workplace pregnancy accommodation law provides protections for employees who have health conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. This law applies to all employers with 15 or more employees.

Job-Protected Leave Options for Pregnant Employee

Pregnancy accommodations make it easier and safer for an employee to continue working. Employers must make efforts to accommodate reasonable requests from a worker or work restrictions recommended by their physician.

The Civil Rights Division of the Attorney General’s Office accepts complaints if an employer has failed to accommodate an employee’s pregnancy. You may contact the Civil Rights Division of the Attorney General’s Office by emailing pregnancy@atg.wa.gov or by leaving a message on their toll-free line at (833) 660-4877. You may also submit a complaint using an online form and a staff member will follow up with you. L&I does not have enforcement authority under this law.

Prohibited Actions

Employers may not:

  • Refuse to consider an accommodation from a pregnant employee.
  • Fail to implement reasonable accommodations.
  • Retaliate against a pregnant employee who requests an accommodation or a change in work environment, or who has made a complaint under this law.
  • Deny employment opportunities to an otherwise-qualified employee if the denial is based on their need for reasonable accommodation.
    • This could include hiring, opportunities for promotion, compensation, etc.
  • Require a pregnant employee to take leave if other solutions can be provided.

Accommodations After the Birth of a Child

Workplace accommodations can be requested after childbirth as well. Under Washington State Law, employers are required to provide:

  • A reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for two years after the child’s birth and each time the employee has need to express milk.
  • A private location, other than a bathroom, if a location exists at the place of business or worksite which may be used by the employee to express breast milk.
  • If the business location does not have a space for the employee to express milk, the employer will work with the employee to identify a convenient location and work schedule to accommodate their needs.
Employers

Employers must consider any request for an accommodation related to pregnancy or childbirth.

Employers must provide the following accommodations for a pregnant employee if they request:

  • Frequent, longer, or additional restroom breaks.
  • Modified food or drink policies.
  • The ability to sit more frequently.
  • Not to lift objects over 17 pounds.
  • The need to express breast milk.

Note: Employers cannot request a doctor’s note for these accommodations.

Employers can request documentation from a health care provider outlining the need for accommodation when a pregnant employee requests:

  • Job restructuring including:
    • Schedule changes such as part-time or modified work schedules.
    • Job reassignments.
    • Providing or modifying equipment or devices.
    • Changes to their workstation.
  • Scheduling flexibility for prenatal visits.
  • A temporary transfer to a less strenuous or less hazardous position.
  • Any further accommodation needed by the employee.

After receiving an accommodation request, the employer must review how they can reasonably accommodate the request. If the request creates an “undue hardship,” they may decline the request or suggest a reasonable alternative.

If an employee feels that their request is reasonable and it is denied by their employer, the employee can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office.

Undue hardship

An undue hardship is an action requiring significant difficulty or expense. Employers must prove that an accommodation would cause an undue hardship.

Employers cannot claim undue hardship for:

  • Frequent, longer, or additional restroom breaks.
  • Modifying food or drink policies.
  • Providing seating for employees who stand or allowing the employee to sit more frequently.
  • Limiting lifting to 17 pounds or less.

Employers are not required to create additional employment that they would not otherwise have created, unless they would do so for another class of employees who need accommodation.

Employees

Employees can request any accommodation related to their pregnancy or childbirth that they feel is necessary or is recommended by their physician. To document accommodation requests, we recommend that the employee submit their request in writing.

Employers must provide the following accommodations for a pregnant employee if they request:

  • Frequent, longer, or additional restroom breaks
  • Modified food or drink policies
  • The ability to sit more frequently
  • Not to lift objects over 17 pounds
  • The need to express breast milk

Note: Employers cannot request a doctor’s note for these accommodations.

Employers can request documentation from your health care provider outlining the need for accommodation when you request:

  • Job restructuring including:
    • Schedule changes such as part-time or modified work schedules
    • Job reassignments
    • Providing or modifying equipment or devices
    • Changes to your workstation
  • Scheduling flexibility for prenatal visits
  • A temporary transfer to a less strenuous or less hazardous position
  • Any further accommodation needed by the employee

After submitting an accommodation request, your employer must review how they can reasonably accommodate your request. If the request creates an “undue hardship,” they may decline the request or suggest a reasonable alternative.

Unless your employer offers similar accommodation for other employees, they do not have to create or transfer you to a job you are not qualified for.

If you feel that your request is reasonable and your employer denies it, you can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office or call (833) 660-4877.