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The EEOC has new guidance on pregnant workers

By Megan Holstein and Lori Welty

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) just updated its guidance regarding pregnant employees. We’ve been waiting for this: on June 14th, the EEOC announced its issuance of a new guidance for employers regarding pregnancy discrimination and accommodations for pregnancy-related conditions under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Yesterday’s release is good news for employers. It’s the first comprehensive update by the EEOC on the rights of pregnant workers since the 1983 publication of a Compliance Manual chapter on the subject, and this new guidance supersedes that chapter. It’s chock-full of useful information for employers on the subject of pregnant employees. The EEOC even created a shorter fact sheet for small businesses. The guidance and fact sheet focus on pregnancy discrimination, and include the EEOC’s expectations regarding leave of absence and workplace accommodation for pregnant employees under the ADA and the PDA.  Here is a preview of the EEOC’s updated guidance as it relates to leave and workplace accommodation:

  • An employer may be required to provide light duty, alternative assignments, disability leave, or unpaid leave for pregnant employees if the employer does so for other employees who have similar limits in their ability to work;
  • The guidance confirms that, while pregnancy itself isn’t a disability protected by the ADA, a pregnant employee may have an impairment related to pregnancy or childbirth that qualifies as an ADA disability. This means that an employer may be required to provide additional leave or a workplace accommodation under the ADA for employees with a pregnancy-related impairment; and
  • An employer cannot require an employee to take leave because she is pregnant if she is able to perform her job.

What is Reed Group Doing?

Reed Group has been focusing on the issues related to pregnant employees even in advance of the new EEOC guidance.  We’re working on a white paper on this topic that will include analysis of the EEOC’s new guidance. The white paper will be published in August, and we’ll make it available for download when it’s ready, so stay tuned.

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