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EEOC's New Pregnant Worker Guidelines: What Employers Need to Know

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on July 16, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission has released new guidelines for the enforcement of laws prohibiting workplace discrimination against pregnant women.

These are the first new federal guidelines on pregnancy discrimination in more than 30 years, reports The Washington Post. The document, titled "EEOC Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination Related Issues," seeks to clarify the federal rules on discrimination against pregnant workers under both the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

What do employers need to know about these new guidelines?

Increase in Discrimination Complaints, Court Confusion

The guidelines were issued following a rising number of complaints regarding pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, as well as different interpretations of existing law by different courts, reports The Washington Post.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a pregnancy discrimination case during its October 2014 term, in part because of lower courts' differing takes on the existing law.

Guidelines Clarify Prohibitions Against Pregnancy Discrimination

The EEOC's new guidelines seek to make things fairly clear, emphasizing that workplace discrimination against pregnant women is a prohibited form of sex discrimination. Here are some of the key points:

  • Pregnancy-related conditions can be considered disabilities under the ADA, which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations as they would for any other disability.
  • Employers may not fire, demote, or refuse to hire women based on a current or future pregnancy, or any other pregnancy-related condition.
  • Lactation should be considered a medical condition, and afforded "reasonable break time" to address lactation-related needs.
  • Women may not be forced to take leave during or following a pregnancy if they can still adequately perform their assigned tasks.
  • Women may not be treated differently or restricted from doing certain jobs, such as those that may expose them to hazardous chemicals, solely based on their ability to become pregnant.
  • An employer may not inquire about whether a woman intends to become pregnant, as such inquiries will be generally regarded as evidence of pregnancy discrimination in the event of any future unfavorable action.

The new EEOC guidelines on pregnancy discrimination take effect immediately, and can be read online in their entirety at the EEOC's website.

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