EEOC Issues New Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination

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On July 14, 2014, the EEOC issued Enforcement Guidance (“Guidance”) and Questions and Answers (“Q&As”) addressing pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.  The Guidance explains the EEOC’s interpretations of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) as they pertain to pregnant workers.

The PDA prohibits discrimination on the basis of an employee’s past, current, or potential pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, including lactation.  The PDA also requires employers to treat pregnant women the same as others who are similar in their ability or inability to work.  Therefore, pregnant employees must receive equal access to benefits, such as light duty, leave, and health insurance.

Under the ADA, employers are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of an employee’s disability.  Pregnancy itself is not a disability under the ADA, but some pregnant workers might have pregnancy-related impairments that qualify as disabilities.  The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees who are disabled, including those with pregnancy-related conditions.

The Guidance is persuasive, but not binding, authority.  The United States Supreme Court is set to hear Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., in which it will decide “whether, and in what circumstances, an employer that provides work accommodations to non-pregnant employees with work limitations must provide work accommodations to pregnant employees who are ‘similar in their ability or inability to work.’”  The Court’s decision could affect the persuasiveness of the Guidance on this issue in the future.

Although this Guidance is generally consistent with New Jersey’s state laws against pregnancy discrimination, it could impact some employers’ policies on pregnancy accommodations.  Connell Foley’s labor and employment law attorneys welcome the opportunity to review your company’s workplace policies.