The EEOC recently released new guidelines for accommodating pregnant workers.
For the first time in over 30 years, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued updated enforcement guidelines on pregnancy discrimination. In order to protect your business from potential complaints and legal actions, it would be wise to review your pregnancy and family leave accommodation policies now and make sure your business practices are in line with the most recent set of guidelines. The Law Office of George G. Romain will be happy to help you do an in-depth review of your current policies and draft new ones as needed. Meanwhile, here are some key points that you need to understand about the current guidance.
Any Woman Can Face Pregnancy Discrimination
The EEOC reminds employers that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act covers past, current, and future pregnancies. It is illegal to take adverse job actions including failure to hire, failure to promote, reassignment to undesirable shifts, etc. against any women based on her pregnancy or her potential to become pregnant.
Pregnancy Impairments Covered under the ADA
In their updated guidance, the EEOC confirms that many pregnancy-related impairments can qualify as disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This means that pregnant workers must essentially be treated like any other worker with a temporary disability. The example given compared a pregnant worker to an individual with a temporary back impairment neither one would be able to lift heavy items and the employer would have to provide appropriate accommodation of this fact.
The new guidance contains many examples of reasonable accommodations that may be made for pregnant workers:
- Allowing pregnant workers to sit rather than stand during a shift
- Reducing the amount of lifting, bending, climbing, etc. that may be required
- Modifying work schedules to accommodate medical appointments
- Changing food and drink policies to allow pregnant women to have water at their workstations
While the employer has the ability to determine how an accommodation may be made, in most cases it is simpler and better for morale to accept a pregnant worker’s own suggestions for reasonable accommodation. Bear in mind that employers cannot forbid pregnant women to perform any job duties that they are willing to do.
Lactation is a Pregnancy-Related Medical Condition
The new guidelines also state that women who are lactating or breastfeeding will be considered to have a medical condition that deserves accommodation. Be sure that your company allows women the opportunity to tend to lactation needs the same way you might accommodate another employee with a similarly limiting medical condition.
Men and Women Must Get Equal Parental Leave
While it is legal to provide special accommodations for women who are pregnant, any accommodations given after the birth for the purpose of bonding or caring for the child must be extended to men as well. If your parental leave policies unfairly favor mothers over fathers you need to change this immediately or leave yourself open to discrimination claims.