EEOC Issues Much-Anticipated Guidelines On Pregnancy Discrimination: Few Surprises, But Good Reminders

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On July 14, 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is charged with enforcing the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, issued guidance on an employer's light duty and leave obligations under the law.  First, the EEOC’s guidance makes clear that if an employer has light duty positions available that it would offer an individual who was injured on the job, then the employer must also accommodate a pregnant individual who has restrictions that also require reassignment to a light duty position.  Employers should ensure that their light duty policies are not restricted to employees who suffer work-related injuries.  Second, with respect to leave policies, employers should tread carefully before rejecting a pregnant employee's request to take a leave of absence if such leaves are offered to employees who have non-pregnancy related conditions. For instance, an employer who grants two months of sick leave to a non-pregnant employee to address cancer or another disability cannot deny the leave to a pregnant employee on the grounds that it believes the pregnant employee will keep asking for more time or on the grounds that granting such leave would cause staffing problems. Moreover, facially neutral leave policies may be subject to attack if they disproportionately (and negatively) impact pregnant workers. Employers should review the EEOC’s guidelines and seek counsel for any questions they might have in light of the guidelines.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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