On July 14, 2014, the EEOC issued its long-anticipated Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues (“Guidance”).  The Guidance adopts new and dramatic substantive changes to federal law regarding employer obligations to pregnant employees.  Employers must become aware of the new rules, as they not only explain the EEOC’s enforcement position, but also expand federal law to provide greatly enhanced protections to pregnant employees.

The Guidance applies to virtually every federal workplace law that deals with employee pregnancies and related conditions, including the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and Executive Order 13152, which prohibits discrimination in federal employment based on parental status.  Among the new changes covered by the Guidance are the following:

  • The PDA requires employers to accommodate pregnant employees, regardless of the severity of their pregnancy-related work limitations, if the types of accommodations are provided to other employees with similar abilities or inabilities to work.
  • The ADA requires accommodation of pregnancy-related disabilities, regardless of their relationship to a healthy and routine pregnancy. Therefore, employers will likely be required to provide accommodations for conditions that are present in most pregnancies, such as balance issues, morning sickness, and changes in body size.
  • The PDA requires accommodations for pregnant women where non-pregnant similarly abled or disabled individuals have received accommodations. The EEOC declares that an employer may not provide light duty to only those employees suffering from workplace injuries, but must also provide light duty to pregnant employees, if needed.
  • Common employer policies, such as a policy that restricts sick leave, may disparately impact pregnant women.
  • The EEOC takes the position that employers that provide health insurance must provide prescription contraceptives in health plans and states when coverage must be provided for fertility treatments unique to women.

We anticipate that the EEOC will begin an aggressive enforcement campaign of these new rules.  Clients should be proactive in familiarizing themselves with the Guidance’s obligations and implementing best employment practices for compliance.  Blalock Walters can assist you with the creation of new policies and procedures and provide counsel when addressing these issues. 

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