EEOC Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination

09/23/2014

Over the summer, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance related to pregnancy in the workplace. EEOC discusses when employer actions may constitute unlawful discrimination on the basis of pregnancy or childbirth, the obligation of employers under the PDA to provide pregnant workers equal access to benefits and how Title I of the ADA applies to individuals with pregnancy-related impairments.The EEOC also provides several employer scenarios it views as discriminatory.

Some highlights of the guidance:

  • Employers must treat pregnant women the “same as others who are similar in their ability or inability to work but are not affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.”
  • An employer is obligated to treat a pregnant employee temporarily unable to perform the functions of her job the same as it treats other employees similarly unable to perform their jobs, whether by providing modified tasks, alternative assignments, leave, or fringe benefits.
  • Employers must provide light duty to pregnant workers if light duty is provided to non-pregnant workers “similar in their ability or inability to work.”
  • Leave related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions can be limited to women affected by those conditions. However, parental leave must be provided to similarly situated men and women on the same terms. If, for example, an employer extends leave to new mothers beyond the period of recuperation from childbirth (e.g. to provide the mothers time to bond with and/or care for the baby), it cannot lawfully fail to provide an equivalent amount of leave to new fathers for the same purpose.
  • The PDA requires workplace adjustments for pregnant employees if the adjustments would be required for an employee with an ADA-covered disability.
  • Employers may not discriminate against a female employee based upon her decision to use contraceptives.

Guidance also states best practices employers should utilize, including:

  • If there is a restrictive leave policy (such as restricted leave during a probationary period), evaluate whether it disproportionately impacts pregnant workers and, if so, whether it is necessary for business operations.
  • Review maternity and paternity leave policies. EEOC mentions that employers who provide more bonding leave for women as opposed to men may violate Title VII. However, more pregnancy leave can be provided to women if the leave is for pregnancy-related medical conditions.
  • Review workplace policies that limit employee flexibility, such as fixed hours of work and mandatory overtime, to ensure that they are necessary for business operations.
  • Consult with employees who plan to take pregnancy and/or parental leave in order to determine how their job responsibilities will be handled in their absence.

The EEOC released two documents to supplement the recent guidance:

FAQs: http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/pregnancy_qa.cfm

Fact Sheet: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/pregnancy_factsheet.cfm

If you have any questions, please contact your WGA’s Compliance Team info@WGAins.com.