What About Pregnancy Discrimination? The EEOC Issues Guidance Warning Employers to Shape Up or Face the Consequences

Jul 15, 2014

On July 14, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) issued a press release and updated enforcement guidance on pregnancy discrimination and related issues.

As the press release indicates, this is the first time the EEOC has issued comprehensive guidance on pregnancy discrimination since 1983. The EEOC reports it has seen an increase in pregnancy-related discrimination charges over the past few years. In 2013 alone, 5,342 pregnancy-related charges were filed.

The EEOC is on the prowl for employers discriminating against pregnant workers, making it a great time for a short legal review. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”) protects pregnant workers from discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions (such as lactation issues). In addition, the PDA requires employers to treat women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions the same as employees not covered by the PDA but who have a similar ability or inability to work. The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (“ADAAA”) provides additional protections for qualified individuals who have pregnancy-related disabilities. Thus, employers must make reasonable accommodations available to pregnant workers with impairments that constitute disabilities under the ADAAA. Accommodations might include providing extra breaks for a pregnant worker with gestational diabetes or lifting assistance for a pregnant worker with a lifting restriction.

The EEOC’s guidance, in addition to summarizing an employer’s requirements under the PDA and ADAAA, sets forth some “best practices” to avoid pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. In sum, the EEOC suggests:

  • Developing and enforcing a policy based on the PDA and ADAAA’s requirements;
  • Training managers and employees on all applicable discrimination laws;
  • Conducting employee surveys and correcting any employment practices that might disadvantage women affected by pregnancy, childbirth or a related condition;
  • Responding to pregnancy discrimination complaints in a prompt and thorough manner;
  • Protecting employees from retaliation related to pregnancy discrimination complaints;
  • Making employment decisions based on a person’s qualifications, not his or her protected characteristics;
  • Applying all leave and benefit policies fairly; and
  • Engaging in the interactive process to determine if a reasonable accommodation may be made for an employee suffering from a pregnancy-related disability

All employers should review their policies and practices annually to ensure compliance with anti-discrimination laws. When reviewing for compliance with the PDA and ADAAA, as it relates to pregnancy discrimination, review the EEOC’s recent guidance closely. For more information or for assistance with your compliance review, contact The Lowenbaum Partnership today.

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