On July 14, 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues, along with a question and answer sheet and a Fact Sheet for Small Businesses. The Enforcement Guidance, Q&A document, and Fact Sheet are available on the EEOC’s website. This is the first comprehensive update of the EEOC’s guidance on pregnancy discrimination since 1983. In addition to addressing the requirements of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), the guidance also addresses the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as it relates to individuals with pregnancy-related disabilities.
Much of the analysis in the enforcement guidance is an update of long-standing EEOC policy. The guidance sets out the 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 in similar circumstances. The guidance also explains how the ADA’s definition of “disability” might apply to workers with impairments related to pregnancy. Among other things, the guidance discusses:
• That the PDA covers not only current pregnancy, but discrimination based on past pregnancy and a woman’s potential to become pregnant;
• Lactation as a covered pregnancy-related medical condition;
• The circumstances under which employers may have to provide light duty for pregnant workers;
• Leaves for pregnancy and for medical conditions related to pregnancy;
• That employers may not require pregnant workers who are able to do their jobs to take leave;
• Parental leave (distinct from leave associated with childbearing or recovering from childbirth) must be provided to similarly situated men and women on the same terms;
• When employers may be required to provide a reasonable accommodation to 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.
For employers, it may be a good time to review policies related to pregnancy and leaves related to pregnancy to ensure compliance with applicable regulations.