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Aug 05, 2014

EEOC issues controversial guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination Act

Disability 

EEOC issues controversial guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination Act

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued new enforcement guidance and questions and answers about the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), with a controversial twist.
The guidance says employers must treat pregnant workers with limitations the same as other employees who are unable to perform their jobs without making a distinction based on the source of the employee’s limitations. In other words, the EEOC has an expectation that employers will provide light duty to pregnant employees on the same basis as they would to workers who have been injured on the job. In addition, while pregnancy itself is not a disability, pregnant employees must be treated the same as others who are similar in their ability or inability to work which means that even absent a pregnancy-related disability you must treat pregnant employees the same as you would treat a disabled employee who was similarly limited.

The balance of the guidance reiterates established law, that an employer may not discriminate against an employee on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; and that women affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions must be treated the same as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.

The enforcement guidance does not have the effect of law or regulation, but tells us how the agency will interpret and enforce the law. The US Supreme Court has recently agreed to hear a case (Young v. United Parcel Service) regarding whether an employer has an obligation to provide light duty to pregnant employees on the same basis as those injured on the job and we can expect a decision next year. In the meantime, if you have a policy of offering temporary light duty or modified duty to workers injured on the job, you should weigh whether to grant the same opportunity to workers who are medically restricted from performing their regular jobs due to pregnancy. Contact your Vigilant staff representative to discuss any specific situations.

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