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EEOC Updates Pregnancy Discrimination Guidelines

The Federal Government’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently updated the enforcement guidelines regarding discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace. The revision of these guidelines comes over 30 years after pregnancy discrimination was first banned in the workplace, and is the first revision since then.

maternity-portrait-2-1413394-m.jpgThe 1983 Pregnancy Discrimination Act is part of the larger American with Disabilities Act. The Act makes it illegal for employers to make hiring, firing, promotion, and other employment-related decisions based on an employee’s status as a pregnant woman or in relation to any pregnancy-related illnesses.

While pregnancy itself is not listed as a “disability” under the Act, pregnancy-related illnesses can qualify. This means that if a pregnancy-related illness rises to the level of a “disability” under the terms of the Act, an employer may need to make reasonable accommodations for the employee, including:

  • Making modifications to an employee’s job description, eliminating non-essential tasks that a pregnant woman cannot perform;
  • Making exceptions to general workplace policies that would allow a pregnant woman the ability to take more frequent breaks and keep a bottle of water near her workstation;
  • Modifying a pregnant woman’s schedule to allow for late arrival due to morning sickness;
  • Allowing a pregnant worker who has been placed on bed rest to work remotely from home;
  • Providing a pregnant employee additional leave, on top of what the employer would normally provide for sick-time; and
  • Temporarily reassigning a pregnant employee to a light-duty position when needed.

The new EEOC guidelines also set forth some “best practices” that workplaces may consider adopting to help make a more comfortable workplace for pregnant employees. Some of the “best practices” are listed below:

  • Make employment decisions, such as hiring and promotions, based on performance and not on stereotypes about pregnant women, or women with families;
  • Do not inquire about a woman’s pregnancy status, plans to become pregnant, or plans to start a family;
  • If a business has a strict leave policy, evaluate whether it may adversely affect pregnant women, and if so consider whether it is essential to the job at hand; and
  • If a light-duty request cannot be honored by an employer, the employer should explain why to the employee and consider providing an alternate assignment that is more feasible.

Have You Been the Victim of Pregnancy Discrimination?

If you suffered an adverse employment situation at work while you were pregnant–whether it was getting passed up for a promotion you were entitled to, or getting fired from your job–you may have been the victim of pregnancy discrimination. It is illegal for employers to make decisions based on an employee’s status as pregnant. However, this happens all the time as a matter of course for many businesses. If you would like to learn more about pregnancy discrimination, you should speak to a dedicated Kentucky employment law attorney. Click here, or call 502-583-2300 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.

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NLRB Finds That McDonalds Is a Joint Employer and Can Be Named in Worker Complaints, Kentucky Employment Lawyer Blog, August 1, 2014.