University of Minnesota  FAQ

Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnancy, Childbirth, Lactation, and Related Medical Conditions

  1. What is the University’s responsibility to provide reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, or a related medical condition?

    The University must provide reasonable accommodations to an individual who requests accommodations relating to their own pregnancy, birth of a child, lactation, or a related medical condition, so long as the accommodations would not cause an undue hardship for the University. 

    If the individual’s need for accommodation results from an illness, injury, or other impairment related to pregnancy, childbirth or lactation, the individual may also be able to access reasonable accommodations for disability as described in FAQ: Reasonable Accommodations for Disabilities.

Process for Identifying and Implementing Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnancy, Childbirth, Lactation, and Related Medical Conditions[1]

  1. What is the process for requesting and receiving reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, lactation and related medical conditions?

    Reasonable accommodations are identified and implemented through an interactive process between the University and the individual seeking accommodation.  The process is generally as follows:

    1. First, an individual seeking an accommodation must request an accommodation from the appropriate responsible administrator (e.g., instructor or supervisor). An individual seeking an accommodation should
      • request the accommodation in advance, if possible, or as soon as reasonably practicable;
      • identify the request as related to pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, or related medical conditions; and
      • identify the work or academic expectation that needs to be modified due to pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, or related medical condition, and that gives rise to the request for accommodation.
    2. The responsible administrator either (a) implements the requested accommodation(s) or (b) engages in an interactive process with the individual seeking accommodation to identify alternate effective reasonable accommodation(s). Here, the responsible administrator and individual seeking accommodation may consult with Human Resources, the campus Equal Opportunity office, and/or other appropriate resources. The responsible administrator and individual seeking accommodation are responsible for actively participating in the interactive process in good faith.
    3. If the responsible administrator believes that they cannot grant an accommodation request, and that no reasonable alternative accommodation is available, the responsible administrator should consult with Human Resources, the campus Equal Opportunity office, and/or another appropriate resource before denying the accommodation request. Denial of an accommodation request may be appropriate when an interactive process fails to result in identification of a reasonable accommodationIndividuals who believe that they have been denied reasonable accommodation should contact the campus Equal Opportunity office.  Responsible administrators should contact the Office of the General Counsel if an individual requesting accommodation is represented by legal counsel.
  2. When is an accommodation not available because it is unreasonable or creates an undue hardship?

    The University does not have to provide an accommodation that is unreasonable. An accommodation for pregnancy, childbirth, lactation or related medical condition may be unreasonable when it

    • compromises essential requirements of a course, program, job or activity; or
    • is requested retroactively or in an untimely manner.

    Accommodation needs related to sudden medical conditions should be requested as soon as reasonably possible, and in these cases retroactive accommodations are likely to be reasonable.

    The University does not have to provide an accommodation that causes an undue hardship. An accommodation may cause an undue hardship when it

    • causes an undue administrative or financial hardship for the institution;
    • jeopardizes the safety of the individual who requires the accommodation or others;
    • infringes on the rights of other employees, including the rights set forth in a collective bargaining agreement or other policy or law; or
    • imposes an unreasonable burden on other employees or students.

    In determining whether an accommodation would create an undue hardship, a responsible administrator should rely on objective information, not on anticipated or hypothetical hardships to the University that could result from providing the accommodation.  In addition, it is not appropriate to determine that an accommodation would create an undue hardship because others might request the same or similar accommodation in the future or because other employees or students think or might think it is unfair.

  3. Is the University required to provide the specific accommodation that the individual seeking accommodation requests?

    Generally, no.  The University is not required to provide the specific accommodation requested by the individual seeking an accommodation.  However, if the specific accommodation requested is reasonable and does not cause an undue hardship, a responsible administrator should provide it unless there is a legitimate reason for suggesting an alternative accommodation.  In addition, the University must provide reasonable accommodations that, at a minimum, are consistent with those accommodations provided to individuals with other conditions that similarly impact an individual’s ability to meet expectations.

    If the responsible administrator does not provide the specific reasonable accommodation requested by the individual seeking accommodation, the responsible administrator should 1) document and provide a reason for their decision not to provide the requested accommodation and 2) implement an alternate reasonable accommodation.

  4. Can a responsible administrator ask for medical documentation supporting a request for accommodation related to pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, or a related medical condition?

    An employee cannot be required to provide medical documentation if requesting more frequent restroom, food, or water breaks; lactation breaks and spaces; seating accommodations; or weight restrictions on lifting.  An employee requesting other accommodations relating to pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, or a related medical condition cannot be required to provide medical verification for their accommodation request unless medical verification is also required for accommodation requests for other temporary medical conditions that similarly impact an individual’s ability to meet expectations.  Employees should not be required to share medical information with their supervisor and can alternately share such information with the campus Disability Resources office.

    A student requesting accommodations relating to pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, or a related medical condition cannot be required to provide medical verification for their accommodation request unless medical verification is also required for accommodation requests for other temporary medical conditions that similarly impact an individual’s ability to meet expectations, such as, for example, a diagnosis of influenza or mononucleosis. Students should not be required to share medical information with their instructors and can alternately share such information with the campus Disability Resources office.

  5. Does a responsible administrator (e.g., supervisor or instructor) need to keep information about an individual’s accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, or a related medical condition confidential?

    Yes.  A responsible administrator should keep this accommodation-related information confidential to the extent possible.  In addition, a responsible administrator should not share information about an individual’s pregnancy with others who do not have a need to know, unless given permission by the individual.

Reasonable Accommodations for Medically Necessary Absences Related to Pregnancy, Childbirth, Lactation and Related Medical Conditions

  1. How does the University accommodate a student’s medically necessary absence due to pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, or a related medical condition?

    The University excuses a student’s medically necessary absences that are due to pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, or a related medical condition.  An absence due to the need to express milk is considered a medically necessary absence.

    A student absent for medically necessary reasons related to pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, or a related medical condition must be allowed to return to the same academic status as before the absence and to make up missed work, including any missed participation-related points or credit.   Instructors’ rules about attendance and make-up work generally cannot override these requirements.

    The University may offer the student alternatives to making up missed work, such as retaking a semester, taking part in an online course credit recovery program, or allowing the student additional time in a program to continue at the same pace and finish at a later date, especially after longer periods of leave.  Preferably, the student should be allowed to choose how to make up the work.  Still, the options offered to a student for making up missed work should not be unreasonable or cause an undue hardship.

    While pregnancy itself is not a disability, some impairments related to pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, or a related medical condition might be considered disabilities for which reasonable accommodations for disability (including excused absences) are appropriate.  The University provides reasonable accommodations to qualifying individuals with disabilities.  See FAQ: Reasonable Accommodations for Disabilities. 

  2. How does the University accommodate an employee’s medically necessary absence due to pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, or a related medical condition?

    Reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, or a related medical condition may include the provision of additional leave time. 

    Employees may additionally be eligible for leave under the administrative policy: Parental Leave.  Faculty and P&A staff should also review the administrative policy: Medical Leave and Disability Benefits for Faculty and Academic Professional and Administrative Employees

    While pregnancy itself is not a disability, some impairments related to pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, or a related medical condition might be considered disabilities for which reasonable accommodations for disability (including excused absences) are appropriate.  The University provides reasonable accommodations to qualifying individuals with disabilities.  See FAQ: Reasonable Accommodations for Disabilities.  In addition, employees may have additional eligibility for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Other Reasonable Accommodations Related to Pregnancy, Childbirth and Related Medical Conditions

  1. What kinds of reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions may be available?

    Available reasonable accommodations depend on academic and/or job requirements.  Some examples of available accommodations might include the following, depending on the circumstances:

    • measures to protect the health and safety of the individual and the pregnancy,
    • modifications to the physical environment, such as accessible seating,
    • mobility support,
    • remote learning options,
    • extensions of assignment or course completion deadlines,
    • schedule changes,
    • temporary leaves of absence,
    • withdrawal from courses, or
    • additional or longer breaks.
  2. What reasonable accommodations are available to students participating in a performance, clinical rotation, or lab?

    Students who are absent from a performance, clinical rotation, or lab due to pregnancy or childbirth should work with their instructor and department to make an alternative plan for the student to complete the required work.  The responsible administrator must provide reasonable accommodations so that the student will not be disadvantaged in their course of study or research.  For example, reasonable accommodations might include allowing the student to shift course order, substitute similar courses, and/or join a new cohort when returning from leave.

  3. Does the University provide leave due to pregnancy or childbirth even when the leave is not medically necessary?

    Employees may be eligible for such leave under administrative policy: Parental Leave.  Students requiring non-medically necessary leave due to their own pregnancy or birth of a child should consult with a responsible administrator (e.g., instructor, department administrator, department head). 

  4. Are accommodations related to parenting available?

    While University policy does not provide for accommodations related to parenting or caregiving, responsible administrators are encouraged to consider providing accommodations where possible. Accommodations should be provided equitably across parents of all gender identities and parents of all types (e.g., birth, adoptive, foster).

    In addition, state law requires that the University provide employees with up to 16 hours of leave (it need not be paid leave) during any 12-month period to attend school conferences or school-related activities related to the employee’s child, provided the conferences or school-related activities cannot be scheduled during nonwork hours. 

    An individual seeking such accommodations should consult with an appropriate responsible administrator (e.g., an instructor, supervisor, or department head), who can determine whether to grant such accommodations on a case-by-case basis. For student parents seeking accommodations, the campus parenting support office may be able to provide support and assistance.

Other Reasonable Accommodations Related to Lactation

  1. What kinds of reasonable accommodations related to lactation may be available?

    In addition to any medically necessary accommodations, the University must offer the following accommodations for a lactating individual:

    • Reasonable breaks for employees to express breast milk. If lactation breaks cannot run concurrently with the employee’s preexisting break time, the employee must be afforded separate lactation breaks.  To support lactating employees, reasonable breaks for lactation are paid. 
    • Excused absences for students from class, work, field experiences, exams, or other academic experiences as necessary to allow expression of breast milk.
    • Private spaces other than a bathroom in which to express breast milk.

    In addition, the University must make reasonable efforts to provide a space for lactation that 1) is located within a five-minute walk of the lactating individual’s place of work or study; 2) contains an electrical outlet, table, and a chair; and 3) is near a sink and space for storing milk. 

  2. What are reasonable lactation breaks?

    Reasonable break times should be sufficient to fully express milk.

    Generally, lactating individuals need 2-3 lactation breaks of 30 minutes or less during an 8-hour period, but individual needs vary. A reasonable amount of time for a lactation break includes the time associated with travel to and from the lactation space, expressing milk, clean up, and storage (depending on where the lactation and storage spaces are located).  Some factors that may impact the time reasonably needed for a lactating individual to express milk include

    • the time it takes to walk to and from the lactation room and the wait, if any, to use the space;
    • whether the lactating individual has to retrieve a pump and other supplies from another location;
    • the time it takes to unpack and set up a pump;
    • the efficiency of the pump used (employees using different pumps may require more or less time);
    • whether there is a sink and running water nearby for the individual to use to wash hands before pumping and to clean the pump attachments when done expressing milk; and
    • the time it takes for the individual to store milk in a refrigerator or personal cooler.
  3. How should breaks be scheduled?

    Break schedules should be based on the needs of the lactating individual and the operational considerations of the University.

    Students planning to express milk should do so around their scheduled class times to the extent possible.  Where this is not possible, instructors should work with students to allow for lactation breaks during class.

    Employees planning to express milk during normal work hours should do so during scheduled work or lunch breaks already provided (e.g., work or lunch breaks provided under policy or pursuant to the terms of a collective bargaining agreement) to the extent possible.  Supervisors are expected to work with employees to arrange schedules to allow for reasonable lactation breaks.

Resources

  1. What other resources are available?

    For guidance, information, and support, students can contact their campus lactation or parenting support office, where available, and employees can contact Human Resources.

    For information about public lactation spaces on the University’s campuses, visit lacspaces.umn.edu.

    For disability-related accommodations, contact the campus Disability Resources office.

    To report discrimination or harassment on the basis of pregnancy or lactation, or to report a failure to receive needed accommodations related to pregnancy or lactation, contact the campus Equal Opportunity office.

    To explore strategies for accommodating student needs, faculty can contact the Center for Educational Innovation.

    On the Twin Cities campus, the Student Parent Help Center supports student parents, and can assist in obtaining pregnancy and lactation accommodations.

    For additional resources, visit the Minnesota Department of Health: Breastfeeding Information for Workplaces.

  2. What other University policies may be most relevant to questions about pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation?
    • Equity, Diversity, Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action
    • Makeup Work for Legitimate Absences
    • Teaching and Learning: Student Responsibilities
    • Paid Medical Leave and Disability Benefits for Faculty and Academic Professional and Administrative Employees
    • Family and Medical – FMLA Leave
    • Parental Leave for Employees

[1] If the need for accommodation results from an illness, injury, or other impairment related to pregnancy, childbirth or lactation, the reasonable accommodation process may alternately be administered through the campus Disability Resources office as described in FAQ: Reasonable Accommodations for Disabilities.