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July, 2014


EEOC Issues New Guidelines on Pregnancy Discrimination



On July 14, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued new guidelines which are intended to provide guidance on the protections pregnant women enjoy under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act ("PDA"), the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), and the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). Although it has long been illegal to discriminate against an employee on the basis of pregnancy, this is the first time in over 30 years that the EEOC has published comprehensive guidelines covering all three laws, and the Guidelines clarify several points on which courts have been divided, providing much-needed predictability for employers and employees alike.

Among other things, the new guidelines make it clear that employers must offer pregnant employees reasonable accommodations, much as they would with any disability recognized under the ADA. Thus, for instance, employers who would accommodate a worker with an injury which prevented him from lifting heavy objects or from standing for long periods of time must offer a similar accommodation to a pregnant employee who has the same limitations on her physical abilities. As the Guidelines indicate, this is so because although "pregnancy itself is not an impairment within the meaning of the ADA, and thus is never on its own a disability, some pregnant workers may have impairments related to their pregnancies that qualify as disabilities under the ADA." Therefore, because the ADA's definition of disability is intended to be construed in favor of broad protection of workers, employers may be required to offer accommodations to their pregnant employees.

The protections called for by the Guidelines are not limited to circumstances in which a pregnant employee suffers from physical limitations, however. In addition, employers are barred from stereotyping based on pregnancy and from discriminating on the basis of lactation or breastfeeding, perceived fertility or infertility, or intent to become pregnant again. Employers may also not discriminate against an employee who chooses to have an abortion and may not pressure an employee not to have an abortion.

In addition, the Guidelines call for men and women to be granted equal parental leaves for purposes of bonding with and caring for a new child, although they also recognize that new mothers may need additional time off to recover physically after childbirth.

These are but a few of the areas covered by the newly-promulgated Guidelines. If you would like advice on how the Guidelines affect you, please contact Chaim Book or Chris Neff and they will be happy to assist you.





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