|July 28, 2014|
Previously published on July 24, 2014
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently issued enforcement guidance on pregnancy discrimination and related issues, marking the first comprehensive update of the EEOC’s guidance on the subject in over 30 years. This guidance has been issued after several states and cities including New Jersey, New York City, and Philadelphia have passed laws regarding accommodations for pregnant employees. Importantly, the guidance incorporates significant developments in the law that have transpired over the past three decades and also sets forth suggestions for best practices for employers to adopt with the goal of reducing the chance of pregnancy-related violations of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Among other issues, the guidance addresses:
- The fact that the PDA covers not only current pregnancy, but discrimination based on past pregnancy and a woman’s potential to become pregnant
- Lactation as a covered pregnancy-related medical condition
- The circumstances under which employers may have to provide light duty for pregnant workers
- Issues related to leave for pregnancy and for medical conditions related to pregnancy
- The PDA’s prohibition against requiring pregnant workers who are able to do their jobs to take leave
- The requirement that parental leave (distinct from medical leave associated with childbearing or recovering from childbirth) be provided to similarly situated men and women on the same terms
- When employers may be required to provide reasonable accommodations for workers with pregnancy-related impairments under the ADA and the types of accommodations that may be necessary
More specifically, with respect to light duty, the guidance provides that an employer is required to provide light duty, alternative assignments, disability leave, or unpaid leave to pregnant workers if it does so for other employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work.
In addition, the guidance identifies various pregnancy-related impairments that could qualify as disabilities under the ADA and further provides examples of reasonable accommodations that may be necessary, including:
- Redistributing marginal functions that the employee is unable to perform
- Altering how an essential or marginal job function is performed
- Modifying workplace policies
- Purchasing or modifying equipment and devices
- Modifying work schedules
Real-life examples are provided with respect to each of these potential accommodations.
Employers should carefully review any policies they have pertaining to reasonable accommodations with counsel, particularly as they may relate to pregnant employees.