New EEOC Guidance Expands Protection For Pregnant Employees
The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has issued new guidance, Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues, expanding the reach of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”). The key points are:
- A policy limiting light duty to employees injured on the job or to employees with disabilities, but not to pregnant employees, violates the PDA;
- The ADA definition of disability may apply to workers with even temporary impairments related to pregnancy (such as disorders of the uterus and cervix requiring bed rest during pregnancy, gestational diabetes, and nausea causing severe dehydration); and
- Even a pregnant employee who is not suffering from impairment may still be entitled to a reasonable accommodation (such as a lifting restriction) under the PDA.
The EEOC provided this example:
An employer has a policy or practice of providing light duty, subject to availability, for any employee who cannot perform one or more job duties for up to 90 days due to injury, illness, or a condition that would be a disability under the ADA. An employee requests a light duty assignment for a 20-pound lifting restriction related to her pregnancy. The employer denies the light duty request, claiming that pregnancy itself does not constitute an injury, illness, or disability, and that the employee has not provided any evidence that the restriction is the result of a pregnancy-related impairment that constitutes a disability under the ADA. The employer has violated the PDA because the employer’s policy treats pregnant employees differently from other employees similar in their ability or inability to work. (Emphasis added)