- A Tennessee caregiving company has agreed to pay $200,000 to settle a pregnancy bias lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
- According to the EEOC, the company required female employees to sign a pregnancy policy during orientation; the policy stated that employment would terminate at the fifth month of pregnancy. The EEOC also alleged that the company terminated pregnant employees even though they were able to effectively perform their job duties.
- In addition to the monetary relief, the company has agreed to rescind the pregnancy policy, send letters of apology to the affected employees, hire an equal employment opportunity consultant to review and revise the company's policies and procedures and train its executives and HR staff on the laws relating to pregnancy discrimination. The company will also post a notice on anti-discrimination and allow the EEOC to monitor its compliance with the consent decree.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act amends Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It makes clear that bias against applicants or employees on the basis of childbirth, pregnancy, or related medical conditions constitutes illegal sex discrimination.
Additionally, while pregnancy itself is not considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), conditions associated with pregnancy — including back pain, gestational diabetes, and pregnancy-induced high blood pressure — may be.
Pregnant employees who are able to continue performing their jobs must be permitted to do so. An employer is allowed to reassign a pregnant worker based on concerns about her health, or the health of her fetus, only if it can establish that non-pregnancy or non-fertility is a bona fide occupational qualification. The EEOC has said: "In very few, if any, situations will an employer be able to establish this defense."
If a pregnant employee is temporarily unable to perform her job, she must be treated the same as any other temporarily disabled employee in terms of opportunities for modified work tasks, light duty, alternative assignments, disability leave or unpaid leave.
More than a quarter of a million U.S. women are denied requested pregnancy accommodations every year, according to 2014 estimates from the National Partnership for Women & Families. The EEOC recommends that managers treat accommodation requests from pregnant workers as accommodation requests under the ADA "unless it is clear that no impairment exists." Similarly, if an employer requires employees to submit a statement from a doctor before allowing leave or paying sick benefits, the employer may require the same of its pregnant employees.
It's important to keep in mind that many local and state laws provide protections for pregnant women that are more extensive than those provided by federal law.