Fresh Guidance from EEOC on Pregnancy Discrimination | DCR Workforce Blog

Fresh Guidance from EEOC on Pregnancy Discrimination

pregnancy descrimination actIn the first comprehensive update since 1983, the EEOC has issued substantial new guidance on pregnancy discrimination; discussing the permissibility (and impermissibility) of employer practices towards pregnant employees. The new guidance interprets the tenets of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), even to the extent of addressing the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as amended in 2008 as ADAAA, under which pregnant workers are to be treated on par with injured workers.

The new guidance was prompted by the new Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the growing number of pregnancy discrimination cases. Although the guidance is not binding law, it reminds employers to acquaint themselves with their requirements under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, as they apply to all pregnant workers – whether temporary or permanent:

  • An employer may not discriminate against an employee on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
  • Women affected by pregnancy/childbirth, or any of its related medical conditions need to be treated the same as other persons facing similar levels of ability or inability to work.
  • This prohibition on discrimination covers not just a current pregnancy, but even a past pregnancy and also protects a woman’s potential to become pregnant.
  • Employers may also not discriminate based on infertility treatments or the use of contraceptive devices. Breastfeeding needs must be addressed on par with other similarly limiting medical conditions.
  • An employer may not impose restrictions on an employee based on being pregnant, even if the restriction is believed to benefit the employee or the fetus.
  • Employers are not required to offer light duty to any of their employees. However, if the company has offered light duty to employees with other conditions, an equivalent accommodation may not be denied to pregnant employees.
  • The Guidance also provides that the PDA protects pregnant workers from discrimination, even if taking such actions could be in the employee’s best interest. For example, it is unlawful for an employer to require a pregnant employee who is able to perform her job to take leave during pregnancy or after childbirth.
  • Employers need not provide medical coverage for abortions. But, they are also not allowed to discriminate against employees based on either the decision to have (or not have) an abortion.
  • Employer-provided health insurance benefit plans must treat pregnancy-related medical costs as a medical condition; and pregnancy related medical costs cannot be singled out for disparate treatment.
  • Employers should distinguish between pregnancy-related leave and parental leave, which needs to be provided to similarly situated men and women on the same terms.

When dealing with temporary workers, the concept of co-employment applies. Both the staffing agency serving as employer of record and the ‘host employer’ who retained the services of the staffing agency are responsible for the welfare of all workers. Both parties must take steps to comply with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

Employers should review any applicable policies, procedures, practices, and training programs in light of the EEOC’s guidance. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act has implications for general employment practices and policies; hiring, promotion, and other employment decisions; leave and other fringe benefits; terms and conditions of employment; and reasonable accommodations. The most important thing to remember – when determining whether the actions toward a pregnant worker are legal and reasonable, the courts consider whether that same action would be taken in the event of any other documented medical condition. For more detailed guidance, the EEOC’s website provides other resources like Enforcement Guidance, Q&A document, and Fact Sheet.

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.