On July 14, 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued new enforcement guidance on the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), warning employers that pregnant employees—even those with normal, uncomplicated pregnancies—are entitled to reasonable accommodations in the workplace. The EEOC’s guidance creates new obligations for employers under the PDA and may have a significant impact on how employers deal with their pregnant employees.
Pursuant to the EEOC’s new guidance, “an employer is obligated is 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.” Thus, an employer must accommodate pregnant employees whose symptoms are caused by the normal symptoms of pregnancy such as morning sickness, balance issues, increased water intake, and fatigue. Reasonable accommodations may include providing modified tasks, telecommuting, alternative assignments, leaves of absence, or fringe benefits.
Accommodations Required Under The PDA Akin To Those Under The ADA
According to David K. Fran, director of ADA and EEO services for the National Employment Law Institute, the EEOC has effectively imported the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). Employers now have an affirmative obligation to accommodate pregnant employees when the pregnant employee’s limitations are similar to the limitations on another employee who is “disabled” under the ADA. This is so even if the pregnant worker does not qualify as “disabled” under the ADA.
Employers Must Offer Pregnant Employees Light Duty Assignments
The new guidance specifically requires employers to offer temporary light duty assignments to pregnant employees with work restrictions if the employer provides the same accommodation to non-pregnant employees who have similar work restrictions. Thus, an employer must offer temporary light duty assignments to pregnant employees if the employer provides light-duty assignments to non-pregnant employees who have similar work restrictions.
United States Supreme Court To Address Accommodating Pregnant Workers
This very issue is currently pending before the United States Supreme Court in Young v. United Parcel Service. The case was brought by a pregnant UPS worker who requested a light-duty assignment to accommodate her pregnancy. UPS denied her request and terminated her employment when her doctor gave her lifting restrictions based on her pregnancy. The Supreme Court will hear the case in the 2014-2014 term, and its decision could affirm the EEOC’s new guidelines. Additionally, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is currently pending in Congress, which similarly addresses the issue of accommodating pregnant workers. Whatever the outcome of these pending matters, it is clear the EEOC is focused on accommodating pregnant employees.
Potential Impact Of The EEOC’s New Guidance
The EEOC’s guidance expands the rights of pregnant employees, and will affect the manner in which employers provide accommodations to their pregnancy employees. Pregnant employees may now ask for reasonable accommodations regardless of whether they are defined as “disabled” under the ADA. If you have questions about pregnancy discrimination, contact a Cincinnati employment lawyer at Robert A. Klingler Co., L.P.A to have your rights explained to you. Pregnancy discrimination is illegal, and you have legal protections that may save your job and help make your pregnancy the joyous experience it should be.