EEOC remains focused on pregnancy accommodation mandate
- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has sued an employer, alleging that it failed to accommodate a pregnant employee, in violation of federal law.
- According to the commission, PruittHealth-Raleigh, LLC, of North Carolina denied a pregnant nursing assistant light duty or a temporary job modification that is normally given to nursing assistants injured on the job. Without the accommodation that would have exempted her from heavy lifting, she was forced to resign, EEOC has alleged.
- The agency seeks injunctive relief, including policy changes at the company and back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for the employee.
Employers must treat pregnant women “the same for all employment-related purposes, including receipt of benefits under fringe benefit programs, as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work,” the Pregnancy Discrimination Act says. This means that employers that offer light duty, for example, would have to provide similar accommodations to a pregnant employee, Randy Gepp, an employment litigation attorney with Taylor English, previously told HR Dive.
And despite a change in administrations — and an obvious shift in enforcement at other agencies — the independent EEOC appears focused on many of its same priorities, including pregnancy accommodation. Just earlier this month, a sports grill agreed to pay $24,000 to resolve an EEOC claim that it fired a pregnant worker because she stopped wearing the company's required uniform — a tight-fitting shirt and hot pants.
For employers, the key to avoiding such claims may be training. Experts continue to note that front-line managers cause a significant number of violations, and EEOC recommends that managers be trained to recognize requests for accommodation.