EEOC Issues New Guidelines for Pregnancy

In July 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission instructed employers of new enforcement guidelines regarding pregnancy discrimination in the job market. The guidance states that light duty work opportunities must be extended to pregnant female employees if medical condition sanctions. The rights include health benefits and medical leave for pregnant women.

Employers are held accountable for knowledge and conduct based on the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. A company, agency or other employer may not decline hiring an applicant based on an existing pregnancy. Firing a pregnant female employee or other negative action due solely to childbirth, pregnancy or related medical issues may result in costly legal proceedings.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed by congress in 1978 to protect women in the job market from discrimination based on childbirth, pregnancy, or medical issues related to complications in childbirth or pregnancy. The act falls under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 pertaining to sexual discrimination. The act grants pregnant women the same benefits as employees disabled for other medical conditions.

The act extends pregnant women the right to be “financially and legally protected before, during and after (their) pregnancies.” Pregnant women continue to face discrimination by employers despite the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. Charges continue to be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for matters related to childbirth and pregnancy.

The reasonable accommodation clause of Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act provides protection for pregnant women in the job market. The pregnant woman must first prove an impairment that would warrant the need for a reasonable accommodation. If the employee demonstrates proof, it may be mandatory for the employer to allow the employee to elevate feet, take frequent breaks or other reasonable accommodations as needed.

The EEOC or other organization will investigate a particular charge of pregnancy discrimination to first find out if the employer was aware of the pregnancy. A notice by the employee to the employer would definitely warrant proof. However, obvious symptoms of pregnancy, such as morning sickness or showing will be considered as well as office gossip.

*Royalty free photo courtesy of Aisling O’Loughlin and Mums-to-be by Trocaire @ Flickr’s Creative Commons. 

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