Starting October 1, 2020, Tennesseans who are working while pregnant, recovering from childbirth, or who need to express breastmilk at work are protected under the law from discrimination. Tennessee law now gives workers an explicit right to reasonable pregnancy accommodations at work, so they can stay healthy and safe while continuing to earn a paycheck to support their family. Tennessee joins 29 other states in mandating fairness for pregnant workers.
These protections come at a critical moment when many pregnant workers are navigating how to continue working while protecting their health. A Better Balance was proud to lead the fight on the ground to enact the Tennessee Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, working closely with a strong coalition of local and state partners and providing drafting and legal support. This victory is also thanks to the bravery of ABB former client Tasha Murrell and her co-workers, who courageously shared their heartbreaking stories of pregnancy discrimination at a warehouse in Memphis, underscoring the urgent need for stronger protections.
If you’re a worker living in Tennessee and are wondering what new rights you have under this law, here are some answers:
What does the Tennessee Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (TN PWFA) do?
- The TN PWFA protects pregnant employees and those who have recently given birth from discrimination in the workplace. Employers must allow employees with limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition to make changes to their work duties or schedule so they can stay healthy and on the job. These changes are called “reasonable accommodations.”
Am I covered?
- If you are pregnant, recovering from childbirth, nursing, or have a related medical condition, and you work for a Tennessee employer that has 15 or more employees, then you are covered.
What are my rights?
- You are entitled to reasonable accommodations when you request them, as long as the accommodations would not impose an “undue hardship” on your employer, meaning they would be very difficult or expensive to provide.
- Reasonable accommodations could include:
- Making existing facilities readily accessible and usable
- Modifying food or drink policy, to allow access to a water bottle or snacks, for example
- Acquiring or modifying equipment, devices, or your work station
- Temporary transfer to a vacant position
- More frequent, longer, or flexible breaks
- Access to modified seating or the ability to sit more frequently if the job requires standing
- Job restructuring
- Light duty
- Assistance with manual labor and limits on heavy lifting
- A modified work schedule
- Flexible scheduling for prenatal doctor’s visits
- Private, non-bathroom space to express breast milk
- Other accommodations
- Your employer cannot force you to take leave from work if a reasonable accommodation can be provided to keep you healthy and on the job. Your employer also cannot punish you for requesting accommodations.
- Your employer must work together with you in an interactive process to figure out the right accommodations to meet your needs.
Do I need a note from my doctor in order to request an accommodation?
- You do not need a note in order to make an initial request.
- Your employer can ask you to provide a note from a healthcare professional if they require it of other employees with medical conditions and if you are requesting a reasonable accommodation related to temporary transfer to a vacant position, job restructuring, light duty, or an accommodation that requires time away from work.
- While you are making efforts to get a note from a healthcare professional, your employer must begin working with you to figure out the right accommodations to meet your needs.
Do I have to be disabled to get an accommodation?
- No. Even an employee with a healthy pregnancy can receive a reasonable accommodation if needed, such as light duty or access to a water bottle to prevent health problems before they begin.
If you have questions, call A Better Balance’s free, confidential legal helpline at 1-833-NEED-ABB (1-833-633-3222) to speak with an attorney about your workplace rights around pregnancy and family care.