Image of Are employers in Virginia prohibited from discriminating based on pregnancy?

Are employers in Virginia prohibited from discriminating based on pregnancy?

Virginia Law Prohibiting Pregnancy Discrimination

Yes – employers in Virginia are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions, including lactation. HB 827/SB 712, passed during the 2020 legislative session, amend the Virginia Human Rights Act (VA HRA) to better protect pregnant workers and those in need of accommodations at work post-pregnancy. The law as amended prohibits employers with five or more employees from discriminating against an employee because of pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions. Va. Code § 2.2-3904(A), (B). Further, it requires an employer to provide a pregnant woman with a reasonable accommodation because of pregnancy or postpartum requirements, unless the accommodation would cause the employer an undue hardship.

Under the HRA as amended, an employee alleging discrimination or refusal to accommodate on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions may file directly in court within two years without first pursuing administrative remedies through the Division of Human Rights. This contrasts with the administrative exhaustion requirement for most causes of action under the HRA. See Id. at § 2.2-3904(E).

Under HB 827/SB 712’s accommodation provision, reasonable accommodation includes a modified work schedule, assistance with heavy lifting, provision of a private location other than a bathroom for expression of breastmilk, and leave to recover from childbirth. Id. at § 2.2-3904(A). A covered employer is required to provide a reasonable accommodation unless they can prove that the accommodation would cause an undue hardship. Id. at § 2.2-3904(B). The employer providing or being required to provide similar accommodations to other employees creates a rebuttable presumption against hardship. Id. The bills outline that after an employee requests accommodation, the parties should engage in an interactive process to determine if the request is reasonable, and if not, to pursue other options. Id. at § 2.2-3904(C).

These amendments to the VA HRA are a step forward for pregnant women and mothers in the workplace, who all too often experience discrimination or are faced with difficult choices regarding work during pregnancy, around childbirth, and postpartum. With these changes to Virginia law, pregnant and postpartum workers should feel empowered to request reasonable accommodations, such as lighter lifting duty; more frequent breaks to use the bathroom, drink water, or eat; and a clean, private location for pumping breastmilk. Better accommodations for pregnant employees should encourage pregnant and postpartum women to remain in the workplace, encouraging more gender equity overall.

Virginia Pregnancy Discrimination Lawyers

If your employer has discriminated against you based on your pregnancy or refused to accommodate your reasonable requests during pregnancy, childbirth, or postpartum, contact an experienced Virginia pregnancy discrimination lawyer today.

U.S. News and Best Lawyers® have named Zuckerman Law a Tier 1 firm in Litigation – Labor and Employment in the Washington DC metropolitan area. To schedule a preliminary consultation with a Virginia pregnancy discrimination lawyer, click here or call us at 202-262-8959.


Virginia Pregnancy Discrimination Resources

Virginia Values Act Amending Virginia Human Rights Act


2020 Virginia Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Retaliation Laws

2020 Legislative Session Heralds a Sea Change in Virginia Employment Law

Jason Zuckerman, Principal of Zuckerman Law, litigates whistleblower retaliation, qui tam, wrongful discharge, and other employment-related claims. He is rated 10 out of 10 by Avvo, was recognized by Washingtonian magazine as a “Top Whistleblower Lawyer” in 2015 and selected by his peers to be included in The Best Lawyers in America® and in SuperLawyers.

Katherine Krems represents employees in discrimination, sexual harassment, and whistleblower retaliation cases. She is focused on finding creative solutions and maximizing her clients’ recoveries. Prior to law school, she worked on policy reforms in Congress to strengthen the rights of workers, women, and marginalized groups.