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Pregnant & Working: Does Your Employer Have to Accommodate You?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) just published new guidance that supports broad protections for pregnant women: EEOC Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues, No. 915.003 (July 14, 2014).

The federal law that bans discrimination against pregnant workers is called the Pregnancy Act Discrimination Act (PDA).

Under the new EEOC Guidance for enforcing the PDA, the EEOC takes the position that a pregnant worker only has to have “medical reasons” for requesting accommodations such as requesting time off, light duty, and scheduling changes. This medical reason need not be a “disability,” as required by the American for Disabilities Act.

The EEOC takes aim at overturning a recent decision by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Young v. UPS, in which the court affirmed a ruling that UPS could deny “light duty” work to a pregnant employee because UPS only provides light duty to those injured on the job. (The Supreme Court has recently decided to hear this case; so, within a year, we will know with greater certainty the obligation of employers to accommodate pregnant workers.)

Fortunately, Maryland law already now provides that pregnant employees are entitled to accommodation. Under Maryland law, a pregnant employee may request a reasonable accommodation and the employer must explore “all possible means of providing the reasonable accommodation.” The law lists a variety of options to consider in order to comply with a request for a reasonable accommodation including:

  • Changing job duties

  • Changing work hours

  • Relocation

  • Providing mechanical or electrical aids

  • Transfers to less strenuous or less hazardous positions

  • Providing leave

Whether accommodation is given requires analysis of a number of factors, including whether the request is in line with existing workplace policies and what other ill workers receive.

The attorneys at Lebau & Neuworth welcome your questions about this pregnancy discrimination and accommodations.

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