EEOC Releases Enforcement Guidance: Pregnancy Discrimination Act, July 14, 2014
On July 14, EEOC issued it’s first significant update to enforcement guidance for the Pregnancy Discrimination Act since 1983. To view the guidance in its entirety, visit: http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/pregnancy_guidance.cfm
Highlights of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act guidance include:
- Employer’s knowledge the employee is pregnant – the employee need not necessarily inform the employer she is pregnant so long as the employer otherwise has knowledge through such instances as visual observation or office gossip.
- Stereotypes and assumptions – an employer may not make assumptions as to what a pregnant employee can and cannot due because she is pregnant when making decisions such as hiring or forcing the employee to take leave.
- Past pregnancy – an employer cannot discriminate against an employee due to her past pregnancy, such as discharging her after the birth of her child while she is on maternity leave.
- Potential or Intended Pregnancy – an employer may not discriminate against an employee because she may become pregnant (such as limiting her access to hazardous employment when no such limitation is placed on male employees otherwise similarly situated) and may not refuse to hire or continue to employ an employee due to her desire or active attempts to become pregnant.
- Discrimination based on infertility treatment – under certain circumstances, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee because she is seeking or undergoing infertility treatment, such as when the employer penalizes the employee for taking time off work to seek or undergo such treatment.
- Discrimination on the basis of contraceptive use – an employer may not take adverse employment action against an employee for her use of contraceptives.
- Medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth – employers must uniformly apply medical leave policies to pregnant employees needing medical leave for conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth as such policies are applied to other workers.
- Discrimination on the basis of lactation and breastfeeding – employers may not take adverse action against an employee due to her need to lactate or breastfeed; for example, an employee may not be demoted because of her breastfeeding schedule. Employees also have rights under PPACA which requires that employers provide reasonable break time and a private place for hourly employees who are breastfeeding to express milk.
- Abortion – employers may not discriminate against an employee for having an abortion or considering having an abortion. Similarly, an employer may not discriminate against an employee for her refusal to have an abortion.
- Persons similar in their ability or inability to work – employers must treat pregnant employees with limitations on work activities similarly as it treats other employees with limitations. For example, if it is not an undue hardship for an employer to accommodate a 20 lb. lifting restriction for a worker with an injured back, the employer must accommodate a similar request from a pregnant employee who is medically restricted to lifting 20 lbs. during the remaining duration of her pregnancy.
If you feel you may have been discriminated against by your employer due to pregnancy or if you have questions about your rights under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, contact us to discuss your legal options.