For the first time in 30 years, on July 14, 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has issued comprehensive guidelines for employers dealing with pregnant employees in the workplace (the “Guidance”). Employers must remember that while EEOC guidance is not law, the Agency’s position on such topics will be relied upon by the courts. The Guidance is available at: [http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/pregnancy_guidance.cfm]
The Guidance is extensive and addresses the treatment of pregnant and non-pregnant workers under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”) which amends Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act. Some of the highlights of the Guidance include the EEOC’s position on the following topics:
- Employers may not discriminate against employees who are pregnant, or against a woman with a medical condition relating to pregnancy or childbirth, all of which is prohibited as sex discrimination;
- The PDA requires employers to provide pregnant workers with equal access to employment benefits such as leave, light duty and health benefits; and
- The Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”), with its broader definition of “disability,” applies to individuals with pregnancy-related impairments.
Of particular note, the Guidance “discourages” employers from even asking employees about pregnancy and other gender-related issues. In addition, the Guidance establishes that employers must offer light duty to pregnant employees if they offer such positions to non-pregnant employees. The Guidance also addresses the requirement that employers provide health insurance benefits that treat pregnancy-related costs in the same manner as non-pregnancy related costs. The Guidance is extensive and addresses other issues not discussed in this post.
Practically, the Guidance provides “Best Practices” for employers to consult to avoid claims related to pregnancy. Employers are well advised to become familiar with such practices.
The PDA, Title VII and the ADA apply to private employers with 15 or more employees, as well as government employers, labor organizations, employment agencies, and apprenticeship and training programs.
Employers are also reminded of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act, which establishes the requirement that employers provide a reasonable break time and private place for breastfeeding employees to express milk.