EEOC issues new guidelines to avoid pregnancy discrimination

For the first time since 1983, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") updated its pregnancy bias guidelines. The guidelines restate the agency’s position that pregnancy-related impairments are disabilities entitled to reasonable accommodations. For example, such a reasonable accommodation would include a reasonable break time for nursing, which must take place in a private place, that is not the bathroom, and need not be paid.

The agency listed other specific examples of reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers, such as:

  • Redistributing “marginal" (i.e., non-essential) functions that the employee is unable to perform due to the disability;
  • Altering how an essential or marginal job function is performed (e.g., modifying standing, climbing, lifting, or bending requirements);
  • Modification of workplace policies;
  • Purchasing or modifying equipment and devices;
  • Modifying work schedules;
  • Granting leave (which may be unpaid leave if the employee does not have accrued paid leave) in addition to what an employer would normally provide under a sick leave policy for reasons related to the disability (and if it does not cause an undue hardship on the employer); and
  • Temporary assignment to a light duty position.

Moreover, with respect to parental leave, the employer must treat men and women who are similarly situated in the same way. The EEOC makes clear that, although "leave related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions can be limited to women affected by those conditions,” parental leave must be "provided to similarly situated men and women on the same terms.”

For more information regarding the EEOC’s new pregnancy discrimination guidelines, please visit: http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/pregnancy_guidance.cfm#dissta or contact your Labor Law counsel.

By Jannah V. Manansala | July 30, 2014

Legal Developments