EEOC Issues Revised Pregnancy Discrimination Guidance

On June 25, 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued amended Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issue (Enforcement Guidance). The Enforcement Guidance is partly in response to the March 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., and supersedes the previous pregnancy discrimination guidance issued back in July of 2014.

In Young, the Supreme Court questioned the EEOC’s original guidance, specifically as it related to an employer’s policy or practice of non-accommodation of pregnant workers. The Supreme Court explained that a pregnant worker could establish a violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) if the employer’s policies imposed “significant burdens” on pregnant workers without a “sufficiently strong justification. The updated Enforcement Guidance reflects the Supreme Court’s conclusion that women may be able to prove unlawful pregnancy discrimination if the employer accommodated some workers but refused to accommodate pregnant women. For example, a pregnant employee might claim pregnancy discrimination if her employer offers light duty work as an accommodation to disabled, non-pregnant workers with work restrictions, but refused to offer light duty work to pregnant workers with similar work restrictions. If the employer does not have a sufficiently strong justification for such a policy, an inference of pregnancy discrimination would arise. Thus, employers must accommodate pregnant workers the same as any other temporarily disabled employee.

Other parts of the EEOC’s Enforcement Guidance remain unchanged, including sections related to the PDA’s application to lactation and breast-feeding, the prohibition of forced leave polices and an employer’s obligation to treat women and men the same with respect to parental leave policies, among other sections.

In addition to the amended Enforcement Guidance, the EEOC posted a revised set of Questions and Answers regarding pregnancy discrimination issues on its website and a new small business Fact Sheet that explains, among other things, the requirements of the PDA.

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