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Idaho Pregnancy Employment Law

Posted by Tamara

An Idaho reader wonders: A colleague is pregnant and claims her pregnancy protects her from being fired for any reason. Is she right?

The answer is: This employee isn’t completely right, nor is she completely wrong.

Being pregnant affords the Idaho employee some protection from being terminated. It is against federal law to fire an employee based on her pregnancy. To do so would constitute illegal discrimination.

Pregnancy, however, is not the “be all, end all” guarantee against getting fired for poor performance or a routine reduction in force.

According to federal ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), a worker in Idaho with a permanent disability is entitled to reasonable accommodations in the workplace. This law requires the employer to make these accommodations.

Pregnancy, however, is not considered a disability under ADA or any other federal law. In addition, being pregnant is not a permanent condition, so employers are not mandated to make accommodations.

This means that pregnant employees are expected to continue to work at the same level as they did prior to becoming pregnant. In fact, most women can perform their jobs, including those that are physically challenging, into their 7th or 8th month. Employers are not required to allow pregnant workers to work less or perform poorly simply because they are pregnant.

One “accommodation” Idaho employers are legally required to make is bathroom breaks. A pregnant woman often needs to urinate more other than normal. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) worker safety regulations require companies to allow all workers to answer nature’s call when it calls. Therefore, a pregnant employee cannot be fired for using the bathroom more often.

A pregnant employee, too, cannot use frequent bathroom breaks as an excuse for working fewer hours or doing less work than their non-pregnant counterparts. Nor can they use pregnancy as a reason to do inferior work. A pregnant employee who is not performing up to company standards can be terminated for not following procedures.

Ideally, there would be a process of disciplinary steps prior to the termination:

1.      Counseling or retraining

2.      A verbal warning

3.      At least two written warnings

 If the employee’s work performance doesn’t improve, the employer can terminate her.

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