Over the dissents of Commissioners Lipnic and Barker, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on Monday, July 14, 2014, issued Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues, along with a question and answer document about the guidance and a Fact Sheet for Small Businesses. In addition to addressing the requirements of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), the guidance discusses the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as amended in 2008, to individuals who have pregnancy-related disabilities.
According to the EEOC, the guidance sets out the fundamental PDA requirements that an employer may not discriminate against an employee on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; and that women affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions must be treated the same as other persons similar in their ability or inability to work. The guidance also explains how the ADA’s definition of “disability” might apply to workers with impairments related to pregnancy.
Among other issues, the EEOC’s guidance discusses its views on the following:
- The PDA covers not only current pregnancy, but discrimination based on past pregnancy and a woman’s potential to become pregnant;
- Lactation is a covered pregnancy-related medical condition;
- The circumstances under which employers may have to provide light duty for pregnant workers;
- Issues related to leave for pregnancy and for medical conditions related to pregnancy;
- The PDA’s prohibition against requiring pregnant workers who are able to do their jobs to take leave;
- The requirement that parental leave (which is distinct from medical leave associated with childbearing or recovering from childbirth) be provided to similarly situated men and women on the same terms;
- When employers may have to provide reasonable accommodations for workers with pregnancy-related impairments under the ADA and the types of accommodations that may be necessary; and
- Best practices for employers to avoid unlawful discrimination against pregnant workers.
The statements of dissent from Commissioners Lipnic and Barker, courtesy of BNA, both question the timing of the issuance of this guidance because the U.S. Supreme Court just agreed to hear the Fourth Circuit case of Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., in which the Court is likely to address many of these issues, including the premise that a routine pregnancy is a disability under the ADAAA that must be reasonably accommodated. As Commissioner Lipnic notes, the EEOC’s Guidance ultimately may be mooted by the Young decision when it comes out. But until then, employers should note that the EEOC will be expanding the rights of pregnant workers.