Benefits Insights, Winter 2016
2015 marks a year of increased protections for pregnant women in the workplace. First, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues in an effort to remind employers that federal law prohibits employers from discriminating based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. The US Supreme Court’s subsequent decision, Young v United, reinforced the EEOC’s strengthening of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act reflected in the new guidance.
The new EEOC guidance was drawn to provide a more explicit interpretation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act as they apply to pregnant workers. Following the Supreme Court’s decision, guidance was revised again to reflect the position that women may be able to prove unlawful pregnancy discrimination if the employer accommodated some workers but refused to accommodate pregnant women.
Under the increased protections, women who are pregnant and able to work must be allowed the same conditions as any other employee. However, if a pregnant woman is not able to work for medical reasons, she must be granted the same benefits, privileges, and rights as workers who are disabled from working. Therefore, non-disabled pregnant workers are entitled to the same accommodations as disabled workers.
The EEOC also issued Questions and Answers about the EEOC’s Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues, which offers more details and information about the application of these changes.