HR Management & Compliance

Treat Pregnant Employees Just Like Everyone Else

The challenge of how and when to accommodate pregnant employees has moved to the forefront as a result of recent changes to the law and recent guidance coming from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

In July 2015, the EEOC issued revised guidance addressing an employer’s obligation to accommodate pregnant employees in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Young v. United Parcel Service Doc. No. 12–1226 (2015). EEOC’s Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues makes it clear that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), prohibits discrimination based on current pregnancy, past pregnancy, potential or intended pregnancy (i.e., because a woman might get pregnant), and medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.

The PDA

According to EEOC’s recent guidance, the PDA requires employers to treat a pregnant employee who is temporarily unable to perform, or is limited in performing, the functions of her job because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition in the same manner as it treats other employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work.

Under the PDA, a covered employer must provide job-related modifications (or accommodations) for pregnant workers when the employer does so for other employees who are similarly limited in their ability to perform job functions.

A change in duties can include, for example, light duty, alternative assignments, additional breaks, or unpaid leave. For example, an employer with a policy of accommodating most temporarily disabled nonpregnant employees with modified work schedules or leave would be required to also accommodate temporarily disabled pregnant employees with schedule modifications or leave.

State laws and pregnancy accommodation

A number of states and localities have passed laws imposing accommodation requirements and leave rights for pregnant workers. These laws generally exceed requirements of federal law. For example, states such as California, Delaware, and Hawaii have enacted laws that expressly require covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees who have work-related limitations due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions, typically so long as such accommodations can be provided without undue hardship to the employer.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) maintains an interactive map that offers information about state-level employment protections for workers who are pregnant or nursing.

Accommodating employees who are pregnant or nursing

In order to meet this challenge to accommodate protected employees, the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a service provided by DOL’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, has created a guide for employers wishing to explore accommodation options for employees who are pregnant or nursing.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at what JAN’s guide contains.