- An Illinois nursing home violated both the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it required women to disclose their pregnancies, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit.
- The facility, Symphony of Joliet, enacted this requirement in a written policy. It required no other employees to disclose medical information, however, EEOC said.
- Symphony of Joliet also forced pregnant workers to get doctor's notes saying they could work without restrictions — even if they hadn't asked for accommodations, the suit alleged. If an employee with less than one year of tenure had a restriction, the nursing home terminated her and labeled her as "ineligible for rehire," EEOC said.
There are a couple of reasons why employers can't discriminate against women on the basis of pregnancy.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act amended Title VII in 1978, when it added pregnancy to the statute's list of protected characteristics. Employers can't discriminate against employees because of pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions, just as they can't discriminate against employees because of their race or religion.
EEOC is charging Symphony of Joliet for discrimination under the ADA, too. As the agency pointed out, the ADA bars employers from requiring workers to submit to medical examinations without a business necessity.
The nursing home allegedly terminated pregnant employees who needed accommodations if they hadn't put in more than a year's work at the facility. But the ADA, which mandates employers provide reasonable accommodations, has no requirement of hours worked — in fact, it includes applicants in its provisions. While pregnancy itself is not considered a disability under the ADA, conditions relating to pregnancy may earn that label. A worker with back pain or a lifting restriction may be entitled to an accommodation.
"Pregnant women are frequently subjected to harmful, paternalistic stereotypes," EEOC Regional Attorney Gregory Gochanour said in a statement. "Pregnancy is no reason for an employer to assume that an employee cannot continue to work, nor is it a blank check for employers to seek invasive medical information or to subject pregnant employees to less favorable employment conditions than their non-pregnant co-workers."