Accommodations for Pregnant Employees

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Published Date: 09/22/2014

 

George; Ports

By George Ports

 

CAI reported in its July 21, 2014 Management Newsletter (EEOC Issues Updated Enforcement Guidance On Pregnancy Discrimination) that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) had issued the first comprehensive update on the agency’s guidance on the matter of pregnancy discrimination since a Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) compliance manual was published in 1983. Included in this new “Guidance” is a set of Questions & Answers addressing a number of issues related to pregnancy discrimination including required accommodations for pregnant employees.

 

Three of the key questions and answers regarding these accommodation requirements are:

 

10. If a pregnant employee needs light duty (temporary work that is less physically demanding than her normal duties), is the employer required under the PDA to provide it?

 

Yes, if it provides light duty for employees who are not pregnant but who are similar in their ability or inability to work. An employer may not treat pregnant workers differently from employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work based on the cause of their limitations. For example, an employer may not deny light duty to a pregnant employee based on a policy that limits light duty to employees with on-the-job injuries.

 

18. Are pregnant employees covered under Title I of the ADA?

 

In some circumstances, employees with pregnancy-related impairments may be covered by the ADA. Although pregnancy itself is not an impairment within the meaning of the ADA and thus is not a disability, pregnant workers and job applicants are not excluded from the ADA’s protections. Changes to the definition of the term “disability” resulting from the enactment of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 make it much easier for individuals with pregnancy-related impairments to demonstrate that they have disabilities and are thus entitled to the ADA’s protection.

 

19. What are examples of pregnancy-related impairments that may be substantially limiting within the meaning of the ADA?

 

Examples of pregnancy-related impairments that may substantially limit major life activities include pelvic inflammation, which may substantially limit the ability to walk, or pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome affecting the ability to lift or to perform manual tasks. Impairments that may substantially limit reproductive functions include disorders of the uterus or cervix that may necessitate certain physical restrictions to enable a full term pregnancy, or may result in limitations following childbirth. Pregnancy-related impairments that may substantially limit other major bodily functions include pregnancy-related sciatica limiting musculoskeletal functions; gestational diabetes limiting endocrine function; and preeclampsia, which causes high blood pressure, affecting cardiovascular and circulatory functions.

 

It is interesting to note that two of the EEOC Commissioners wrote dissenting opinions regarding the agency’s new guidance. One of these, Constance S. Barker, wrote that the Commission gave new legal interpretations of the PDA particularly those surrounding reasonable accommodations, adding that the guidance wrongly interprets the PDA to require employers to give pregnant employees light duty work as it does to those employees who were injured on the job.

 

To read the entire set of Questions & Answers included in the EEOC’s new “Guidance,” go to http://j.mp/qa-pd. If you have questions about the EEOC’s new enforcement guidance on pregnancy discrimination, call CAI's Advice & Resolution Team at 919‑878‑9222 or 336‑668‑7746.

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