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Government Takes Steps to Address Discrimination Against Pregnant Employees

10/01/2012 -

A newbill would require employers to accommodate the limitations of pregnant workers and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) makes pregnancy discrimination a key part of it’s strategic plan.

A new bill (S. 3565) introduced by Bob Casey (D-PA) would require that employers provide workplace accommodations to pregnant employees. The bill would make it illegal for employers to refuse to make reasonable accommodations for the “known limitations related to the pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions of a job applicant or employee.”

The bill would give pregnant employees and applicants rights similar to those afforded disabled employees under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under S. 3565, employer would have to provide an accommodation unless it can prove that such an accommodation would be an undue hardship on the business.

The bill would also make it illegal to deny an applicant a job “if such denial is based on the need of the covered entity to make reasonable accommodations to the known limitations related to the pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions of an employee or applicant.”

S. 3565 would also make it illegal for companies to require an employee to take leave when a reasonable accommodation could allow them to stay on the job.

It is unlikely that action will be taken on S. 3565 in this Congress because it is out of session until after the November general election. However, recent actions by the Executive Branch suggest that action on the issue will be forthcoming if Congress choses not to act.

A strategic enforcementplan introduced recently by the EEOC listspregnancy discrimination as an emerging issue that the agency plans to focus on the future. (The EEOC takes on pregnancy discrimination as a type of sex discrimination.) The strategic plan states that the focus will be on: “Accommodating pregnancy when women have been forced onto unpaid leave after being denied accommodations routinely provided to similarly situated employees.”

Since announcing the new strategic plan, the EEOC has filed fourpregnancy discrimination lawsuits and settled one. In one of the recently filed suits, a female security guard was fired while she was on maternity leave. In another case, a restaurant chain had written instructions that managers should fire pregnant employees three months into their pregnancies. In another suit against a restaurant, the company fired two pregnant employees, telling them that their pregnancies caused them to be a liability to the company.

Photo byFrank De Kleine Coloring/flickr