ADA & Disabilities, Employment Law

Pregnancy Accommodation: A Q&A with Susan Fentin

The EEOC just settled a case against a convenience store chain operator with stores in Texas and New Mexico for a whopping $950,000. The EEOC claimed the company had discriminated against pregnant workers by subjecting them to different working conditions—and also told the workers they would not have been hired had the company known about their pregnancies.recruiting

Even if you have no intention of discriminating, employee pregnancies can be tricky from a legal standpoint. Pregnancy is a protected condition, but you can’t assume that pregnant workers want or need special treatment. Similarly, while pregnancy itself is not considered a disability, it can give rise to legally protected disabilities. Even experienced HR professionals have trouble striking an appropriate balance between sensitivity and legal compliance.

Don’t miss our informative webinar on December 5, when Susan Fentin, Esq. of Skoler, Abbott, & Presser, P.C., will shed light on how to correctly handle issues concerning pregnant workers so you’re on the right side of the law. As a preview, Fentin has supplied some frequently asked questions—and answers—to this HR topic.

Q—Why is the Supreme Court’s decision in Young v. UPS considered only a partial victory for pregnant workers?

A—In its decision, the Court failed to adopt the entirety of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s 2014 Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination.  Although it ruled in favor of Ms. Young, it appeared to leave an option for employers to decline to provide an accommodation for a pregnant worker, if there is a legitimate business reason that justifies the decision.

Q—What statutes can provide additional protection for pregnant workers?

A—Many states have Fair Employment Practices Acts, which govern discrimination claims in their state.  Under those state statutes, employers may have an obligation to provide accommodations to pregnant workers similar to those provided to disabled employees.  Since state statutes usually have a lower threshold for number of employees, they generally apply to more employers.  As a result, many employers need to be knowledgeable about their obligations under their specific state statutes.

Q—What if there are no accommodations that would permit a pregnant worker to perform the essential functions of her job? 

A—Even under state statutes, if there are truly no accommodations that would allow the pregnant worker to perform her essential functions, the employer may be able to place the employee on a job-protected leave of absence until she is able to return after the birth of her child.  But employers would be wise to carefully consider this option: An employer who denies a pregnant employee an accommodation may have to show that the requested accommodation was an undue hardship, which is generally a high burden.

Join Susan Fentin for the live webinar, “Pregnancy Accommodation: How to Manage Requests for Light Duty, Leave, Transfer, and More,” on Tuesday, December 5, 2017. Register today!