Women who work while pregnant face additional worries about their safety and that of their unborn babies. A workplace accident or exposure to hazardous chemicals can have devastating and life-long consequences for the worker or the baby. Ideally, women in this situation may want to take a leave of absence, but many cannot afford to and even struggle to afford a maternity leave once the baby is born.
Fortunately, women in New Jersey have additional protections when they are pregnant under New Jersey’s Pregnant Fairness Act, which prohibits discrimination against pregnant employees and requires employers to provide additional accommodations to them. This law applies to employers who have 15 or more employees. Pregnant workers are entitled to reasonable accommodations related to their pregnancy on the advice of their doctors. Ways an employer may need to make modifications include:
- Restructuring the employee’s job responsibilities or work schedule
- Providing bathroom breaks
- Providing additional breaks for water consumption
- Allowing more breaks for rest
- Temporarily reassigning the worker to less strenuous or less hazardous work
Common Jobs Where Pregnant Women Face Potential Hazards
Even with the protections under this Act, pregnant women face additional risks at their jobs that could result in an injury requiring them to be off work and file a workers’ compensation claim. Reasons for this include:
- Changes in a pregnant woman’s metabolism can increase her absorption of toxic chemicals.
- Personal protection equipment like gloves and respirators may not fit properly as the woman’s pregnancy progresses.
- Changes to her system, lung capacity, and ligaments can increase a pregnant woman’s risk of injury or illness caused by workplace hazards.
- A fetus may be at even higher risk of being injured during the early months of pregnancy from toxic chemical exposure due to his rapid growth and organ development.
While pregnant workers in any industry could suffer a workplace accident, some jobs pose specific dangers. Some common jobs where pregnant women need to be concerned include:
- Aircraft crew. Flight attendants and pilots face greater risks from cosmic ionizing radiation and constant jet lag. In addition, they need modified duties to prevent too much standing, lifting, or bending from the waist.
- Child care workers and teachers. Workers in child care settings or schools risk injuries when pregnant due to the long hours they work, heavy lifting—including of children—long periods of standing, and exposure to germs.
- Farmhouse and greenhouse workers. Like many jobs, these involve the three no’s—standing, lifting, and bending. In addition, pregnant women are exposed to toxic pesticides, animal waste and infections that can be passed onto humans, loud noises, and diesel fuel around tractors or other similar farm equipment.
- Firefighters. This can be an especially challenging job for a pregnant woman with the heavy physical demands and the exposure to toxins from burning materials.
- Healthcare workers. The long hours, shift work, and physical demands that are a part of healthcare work is hard on a pregnant woman’s body. In addition, she could be exposed to powerful drugs, disinfectants, X-rays, and dangerous infectious agents.
- Laboratory staff. Pregnant researchers and other lab workers are often exposed to hazardous substances like solvents, formaldehyde, ionizing radiation, and infectious substances—dangerous to their fetuses and themselves.
- Morticians. Because of the constant exposure to formaldehyde in embalming, pregnant workers may need to avoid these duties or at least limit them.
- Nails, hair, and beauty salon workers. Pregnant women working in this industry are exposed to harmful solvents, chemicals, and dangerous dusts and vapors that can sometimes even be carried home on skin, clothes, and shoes.
- Office workers. Office workers can work long hours—sometimes standing—and some must perform heavy lifting. In addition, those in manufacturing plants can be exposed to harmful chemical and solvent odors, and those working in healthcare settings face some of the same dangers as healthcare workers.
- Factory workers. Pregnant women working in factories have physically demanding jobs that require them to stand, lift, and bend throughout their long shifts. In addition, they can be exposed to harmful solvents and chemicals used in the manufacturing process.
Let Us Help You Get the Workers’ Comp Benefits You’re Entitled To
Are you pregnant? Were you injured in a workplace accident or develop an illness caused by your work? You could be entitled to workers compensation benefits and benefits under the Pregnant Fairness Act. Order our FREE electronic book, What the Injured Worker Needs to Know: Your Workers’ Comp Guide, to start learning about your legal options.