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EEOC issues new Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues

Earlier this month, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued new Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues which discusses legal requirements under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and other federal laws.  According to the new Enforcement Guidance, pregnancy discrimination complaints have been on the rise for years, outpacing the steady rise of women in the workplace.

This new Enforcement Guidance provides additional legal support for pregnant employees who need light duty because of physical restrictions related to their pregnancies.  The Enforcement Guidance makes clear that, under the PDA, if an employer permits employees with physical restrictions similar to a pregnant woman to have light duty, it must give light duty to pregnant employees as well.  For instance, if an employer gives light duty assignments to employees with lifting restrictions due to on-the-job injuries, it will need to provide light duty assignments to pregnant employees who have those same lifting restrictions.

According to the Enforcement Guidance, the ADA entitles pregnant employees who suffer from some pregnancy-related medical impairments to reasonable accommodations.  For instance, an employer may have to permit a modification to an employee’s work schedule in order to accommodate her if she has a pregnancy-related medical impairment. The Enforcement Guidance offers the following example of such a situation:

An employee with depression found that her condition worsened during her pregnancy because she was taken off her regular medication.  Her physician provided documentation indicating that her symptoms could be alleviated by a counseling session each week.  Since appointments for the counseling sessions were available only during the day, the employee requested that she be able to work an hour later in the afternoon to cover the time.  The manager concluded that, because the schedule change would not adversely affect the employee’s ability to meet with customers and clients and that some of the employee’s duties, such as sending out shipments and preparing reports, could be done later in the day, the accommodation would not be an undue hardship.

If an employer has refused to accommodate your pregnancy-related medical restrictions, or it has discriminated against you in other ways due to your pregnancy, please contact the Maine Employee Rights Group.  We may be able to assist you with obtaining accommodations from the employer or, if the employer refuses to comply with the law, pursuing legal action on your behalf.