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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) just released guidelines for enforcement of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”), in an effort to reduce discrimination in the workplace. The agency pointed to an increase in the number of claims filed over the past decade, as it reminded employers of all the forms pregnancy discrimination can take.
This is the first time the EEOC has updated its pregnancy discrimination enforcement guidelines since 1983, and the agency’s timing is noteworthy. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the Fourth Circuit decision of Young v. United Parcel Service, (http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/young-v-united-parcel-service/) concerning accommodations employers must grant pregnant employees, as compared to those they must grant to non-pregnant employees.
In the meantime, the guidelines provide useful reminders for employers. First, pregnancy discrimination is not limited to mistreatment of currently pregnant employees. Rather, adverse employment action that is taken because someone was pregnant, is pregnant, or plans to become pregnant, all constitute discrimination. Second, employers cannot force a pregnant employee to take a leave of absence, if she can perform the essential functions of her position. Employers must offer light work to such an employee, if any is available. Third, if an employer provides healthcare, it must cover pregnancy and related conditions.
Circumstances involving pregnant employees often present challenges for employers. In individual situations, employers who are unsure of how to proceed should consider contacting counsel for direction.