EEOC Toughens Stance on Pregnancy Discrimination
On July 14 the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued new guidance on pregnancy discrimination and related issues. In 2013 the EEOC cautioned employers it was ramping up its focus on claims of pregnancy discrimination.
The EEOC’s new guidance addresses several issues including:
- The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) covers not only current pregnancy, but also 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 medical conditions related to pregnancy;
- The PDA’s prohibition against requiring pregnant workers who can do their jobs to take leave;
- The requirement that parental leave (which is 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 have to provide reasonable accommodations for workers with pregnancy-related impairments under the Americans with Disabilities Act; and
- Best practices for employers to avoid unlawful discrimination against pregnant workers.
Although the guidance incorporates many longstanding agency policies, it also demonstrates the EEOC is toughening protections for pregnant employees. Employers covered by federal law (those with 15 or more employees) should be aware of the new guidelines and should expect the agency to continue aggressive enforcement. Links to the relevant documents can be found here: The Enforcement Guidance, Q&A document, and Fact Sheet.