EEOC’s New Guidelines Regarding Pregnancy Discrimination

EEOC’s New Guidelines Regarding Pregnancy Discrimination

by Posted on: July 21, 2014Categories: HR & Compliance   

For the first time in over thirty years, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has provided an update on the subject of pregnancy discrimination by issuing new guidelines under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These guidelines come at a time when there has been an increase in awareness about pregnancy related discrimination issues. In fact pregnancy discriminations claims have increased by 46% between 1997 and 2011. The EEOC has claimed their position on a number of items and the guidance is effective immediately.

First off, the EEOC states that there should be no discrimination between past, present, or future pregnancies. All of these are covered by the PDA which covers all aspects of employment including hiring, firing, promotions, benefits, and treatment. Regarding pregnancy related medical conditions, the EEOC states that the PDA disapproves the discrimination against women with medical conditions related to pregnancy from those who also have medical conditions unrelated to pregnancy. Furthermore, lactation and breastfeeding are now considered pregnancy related medical conditions under PDA and employers must allow their employees with these conditions the freedom to address these issues in the same way employees with other medical conditions do.

EEOC’s interpretation of PDA doesn’t allow preferential treatment for pregnant people and workplace conditions should be applied equally to all those who are also unable to work. For example, light duty working conditions should be applied to those with pregnancy related conditions as well as other employees with conditions that make them unable to perform their full duties. The ADA doesn’t categorize pregnancy as a disability but if a worker has impairments from their pregnancy then they may apply. In this circumstance, employers cannot discriminate against women with disability resulting from a pregnancy from others with disabling factors. Employers must provide equal accommodations such as altering job functions, modifying workplace policies, and additional leave.

Employers cannot force an employee to take leave as long as they are able to perform their job. This would violate PDA. In addition, employers must allow women with physical limitations from pregnancy to leave on the same terms as others who are similar in their ability to work. The EEOC also points out PDA doesn’t allow the discrimination between men and women for parental leave which includes bonding or providing care for a new born child. Employers must provide equal leave to new fathers and mothers beyond the period of recuperation from childbirth.

The EEOC has suggested the best practices to avoid violations regarding pregnancy related discrimination under PDA and ADA. They suggest employers review their polices to make sure they are addressing conditions appropriately.


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