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Pregnant Employee Unable to Do Work

We are a small company in Alabama of only 8 employees. We have an employee that cannot perform her duties due to her pregnancy. We have accommodated her to light desk work. As an employer, since there is a huge difference in what she was hired to do and what she can do… am I allowed to temporarily reduce her pay to match the work she is currently doing? For example: Nurse to now Desk Clerk?

Employers are permitted to reduce the pay for an employee who is on light duty due to a temporary disability including pregnancy. But, doing so can be risky because you don’t want to come across as retaliating against the employee for her medical condition.

It sounds like the employee is no longer performing any of her regular job functions. In this case, it’s not only a pay reduction but also a job transfer, which is an acceptable accommodation. Inform the employee that since she is not able to perform the functions of a Nurse you’re willing to transfer her to a Desk Clerk position with reduced pay on a temporary basis. Communicate the details i.e. new wage, how long you’re willing to provide the job for etc… Make sure to document the conversation.

It’s also worth mentioning the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), even though it only applies to employers with 15 or more employees. Under the PDA, an employee who is temporarily disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition must be treated in the same manner as other employees who are temporarily disabled.  For example, the employer may have to provide light duty, alternative assignments, disability leave, or unpaid leave to pregnant employees if it does so for other temporarily disabled employees.

The PDA prohibits any discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. So, again, you never want to reduce an employee’s pay in retaliation for a temporary disability; however, if the employee is clearly unable to perform her work duties then offering light duty or a different position at a lower wage is acceptable.


This entry was posted on Monday, December 19th, 2016 at 11:25 am and is filed under
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