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The EEOC and additional considerations in claims of pregnancy discrimination

  • January 28th, 2015
  • Miles Buckingham
  • Comments Off on The EEOC and additional considerations in claims of pregnancy discrimination

In July 2014, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) issued formal guidance that clarifies its position on the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”). Though this guidance does not have the force of law, it offers an indication of how the EEOC will proceed when a charge of pregnancy discrimination is filed against an employer.

The PDA prohibits discrimination against an employee on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; and provides that women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions must be treated the same as persons who are not so affected, but similar in their ability or inability to work. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act’s 2010 amendments, the expansion of the term “disability” means that pregnant women may be entitled to accommodations if they have impairments that are significant enough to qualify under the more relaxed definition of disability. As a result, pregnant employees may be entitled to accommodations such as more frequent breaks, the use of a chair or stool, and the alteration of how job functions are performed.

One notable change that results from the EEOC’s guidance surrounds temporary light duty assignments. Until now, employers in Colorado have been able to limit light duty assignments to only those employees who were injured on the job. In this recent guidance, the EEOC specifically states that such a denial would violate the PDA because “…the employer’s policy treats pregnant employees differently from other employees similar in their ability or inability to work.” However, the EEOC also stated that the employer can still legally place some restrictions on the availability of light duty positions, such as limits on the number of light duty positions or the duration of light duty assignments, if those restrictions apply to all employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work.

As always tread carefully when making adverse employment decisions related to pregnant employees. For more information, see HERE.

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