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EEOC Updates Rules Against Pregnancy Discrimination

On Monday, July 14, 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) updated its rules against pregnancy discrimination for the first time in thirty (30) years.  The primary effect is to extend accommodations to pregnant employees under both the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).  The Enforcement Guidance is broken into four sections: (1) The Requirements of the PDA; (2) The Requirements of the ADA; (3) Other Requirements Affecting Pregnant Workers; and, (4) Best Practices.  Below is an overview of some of the more significant aspects of these sections.
(1)               The Requirements of the PDA
Under the PDA, a covered employer must treat women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions in the same manner as other applicants or employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work.  This includes the following requirements:
•         Discrimination: Employers may not discriminate against employees based on current, past or potential pregnancy.
•         Harassment: Employers may not harass an employee because of pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition.
•         Light Duty Policies: Employers must provide light duty, alternative assignments, disability leave, or unpaid leave to pregnant workers if it does so for other employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work.
•         Leave: Employers must allow female employees with physical limitations resulting from pregnancy to take leave on the same terms and conditions as others who are similar in their ability or inability to work.
•         Medical Benefits: Employers who offer health insurance must include coverage for pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions, and provide the same terms and conditions for pregnancy-related benefits as it provides for benefits relating to other medical conditions.
(2)               The Requirements of the ADA
While pregnancy is not a disability under the original Americans with Disabilities Act, the EEOC now considers impairments related to pregnancies as a disability under the ADA.  This includes temporary impairments such as pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia.  Under the ADA, employers may not discriminate against employees with a pregnancy-related impairment, and they must provide a reasonable accommodation unless the accommodation would result in an undue hardship.  Examples of a reasonable accommodation include:
         Redistributing marginal or nonessential functions that a pregnant employee cannot perform;
•         Modifying a work schedule so that someone who experiences severe morning sickness can arrive later than her usual start time and leave later to make up the time; and,
•         Temporarily reassigning an employee to a light duty position.
(3)               Other Requirements Affecting Pregnant Workers
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), eligible employees of employers with 50 or more employees must be permitted to take up to 12 workweeks for the birth and care of the employee’s newborn child.
Another significant requirement is that, under Section 4207 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, employers must provide breastfeeding employees with a private place, not a bathroom, and “reasonable break time” to express milk until the child’s first birthday.
(4)               Best Practices 
The EEOC offered the following general recommendations to ensure compliance with these new rules:
•         Develop, disseminate, and enforce a strong policy based on the requirements of the PDA and the ADA.
•         Train managers and employees regularly about their rights and responsibilities related to pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions.
         Respond to pregnancy discrimination complaints efficiently and effectively.
The above is simply an overview of some of the more significant aspects of the EEOC’s guidance.  There are numerous other requirements that we did not discuss.  If you have questions about these additional requirements or complying with these new rules, contact a member of MacDonald Illig’s Labor and Employment Group.