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Ask The Lawyer By: Daniel A. Gwinn, Esq.

| July 2, 2017


QUESTION: One of my employees recently informed me she is pregnant and is not allowed to lift anything more than 25 pounds until after her baby is born. The problem is that I can’t guarantee she won’t have to lift more than 25 pounds – it’s part of her job every day, loading our furniture delivery van. If she can’t do the work, I’ll have to hire someone else, but I worry that I’ll get in trouble with some discrimination law or something.

ANSWER: Whether you can get into trouble for discrimination depends, in part, on whether lifting heavy weights is an “essential function” of the pregnant worker’s job, and on how you treat other workers who are temporarily unable to perform the essential functions of their job.

Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, pregnant workers must be treated “the same for all employment-related purposes” as people who are not pregnant but are “similar in their ability or inability to work.” That is, you need to treat your pregnant worker the same way you would treat any other worker who is unable to meet the lifting requirement. If you provide some kind of accommodation to those workers, you must also provide an accommodation to the pregnant worker.

If lifting 25 pounds is an “essential” part of the job, the law does not require you to eliminate that aspect of the pregnant worker’s work, or ask someone else to take on extra work to accommodate her. However, if there is a way for the worker to do her job, and avoid lifting more than 25 pounds unassisted (maybe there is a device that could help lift items), or if she could be reassigned to a different position that does not require her to lift 25 pounds, you should explore those options. Moreover, whether a job duty is “essential” is a legal determination where the risk-adverse and cautious employer would seek professional legal guidance for further assistance.

If you are in doubt of your obligations to accommodate your worker, you may wish to consult with an attorney before taking action.

The lawyers at GWINN TAURIAINEN PLLC are experienced attorneys and are happy to answer your questions. Give us a call for a free initial telephone consultation about your legal needs. For consideration of your questions in our web column, please submit your inquiry on the “Contact Us” page of our website at

Information provided on “Ask the Lawyer” is current as of the date of publication. Laws and their interpretation are subject to change. The material provided through “Ask the Lawyer” is informational only; it should not be considered legal advice. Submitting a question to “Ask the Lawyer” does not create an attorney-client relationship between the person submitting the question and GWINN TAURIAINEN PLLC. To view previous columns, please visit our website.

GWINN TAURIAINEN PLLC, is a Troy based law firm representing clients from Warren, Sterling Heights, Ferndale, Royal Oak, Oak Park, Oakland and Wayne Counties and all of Southeast Michigan

By: Daniel A. Gwinn, Esq.

Attorney and Counselor at Law
901 Wilshire Drive, Suite 550
Troy, MI 48084
(248) 247-3300
(248) 247-3310 facsimile

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