EEOC Issues Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination Issues

Last month the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued guidance related to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Generally speaking, “Guidance” from the Commission describes how the Commission interprets the law and provides advice to employers about how to comply with the law. This is the first time the Commission has updated the Pregnancy Discrimination guidance since 1983. The updated guidance provides a good opportunity to review the rights of pregnant women in the workplace.

Employers are not allowed to discriminate against an employee because she is pregnant, has been pregnant or might become pregnant or because she has medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. For example, an employer cannot refuse to hire or promote a female job candidate because she is or might become pregnant. When determining whether to offer pregnant women light duty assignments or other accommodations, the employer must treat pregnant women the same way it treats non-pregnant employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work. When offering leave for pregnancy and/or childbirth, the employer must offer uniform medical leave in accordance with its policy. For instance, it cannot offer a 6-week leave to someone with a non-pregnancy illness, but only provide 4 weeks of leave for pregnancy. (Other statutes, including the Family & Medical Leave Act might provide additional job-protected leave for pregnancy and childbirth.)

Lactation is considered a pregnancy-related medical condition and must be treated like any other medical condition. A nursing mother is entitled to time to address lactation-related issues in the workplace just as any other employee would be provided time to address medical issues at work. In addition, nursing mothers are entitled to reasonable break time to express breast milk for a year after the child’s birth. Not only are mothers entitled to time to pump, they are also entitled to a private location for pumping that is not a bathroom.

Pregnancy discrimination continues to be a significant hurdle in the lives of working women. Craig Henry PLC is ready to fight for your rights in the workplace – before and after childbirth.

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