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Be Alert And Prepared - Pregnancy Discrimination Claims On The Rise

Volume 8, Issue 4
March 9, 2009

Nevada employers should be alert to EEOC statistics which demonstrate that pregnancy discrimination charges surged to a record-high in Fiscal Year 2007. (See http://www.eeoc.gov/stats/pregnanc.html to view the numbers). Given the aggressive nature of the Las Vegas EEOC office, employers should anticipate receiving these types of charges more frequently. Because this is an area of the law which is often overlooked, it is important to ensure that your company is consistently compliant with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and that supervisors are specifically trained on the Act's requirements and prohibitions.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is a 1978 amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which provides that discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions constitutes unlawful sex discrimination. As such, all employers covered by Title VII are also covered by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

The Act generally provides that women who are pregnant or affected by related conditions must be treated in the same manner as other applicants or employees with similar abilities or limitations. Arising from this general principle are several specific rules which supervisors should understand, including:

1. An employer cannot refuse to hire a pregnant woman because of her pregnancy, because of a pregnancy-related condition or because of the prejudices of co-workers, clients, or customers.

2. An employer may not single out pregnancy-related conditions for special procedures to determine an employee's ability to work. However, if an employer requires its employees to submit a doctor's statement concerning their inability to work before granting leave or paying sick benefits, the employer may require employees affected by pregnancy-related conditions to submit such statements.

3. If an employee is temporarily unable to perform her job due to pregnancy, the employer must treat her the same as any other temporarily disabled employee. For example, if the employer allows temporarily disabled employees to modify tasks, perform alternative assignments or take disability leave or leave without pay, the employer also must allow an employee who is temporarily disabled due to pregnancy to do the same.

4. Pregnant employees must be permitted to work as long as they are able to perform their jobs. If an employee has been absent from work as a result of a pregnancy-related condition and recovers, her employer may not require her to remain on leave until the baby's birth. An employer also may not have a rule that prohibits an employee from returning to work for a predetermined length of time after childbirth.

5. It is unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on pregnancy or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under Title VII.

While pregnancy discrimination is a form of sex discrimination, it is important that in training supervisors, employers specifically cover the issues relevant to pregnancy and childbirth. Supervisors need to understand the restrictions against discrimination and the forms which discrimination can take under this Act. Moreover, because some supervisors assume they must take a completely "hands-off" approach to a pregnant employee, they need to understand that the Act permits the employer to treat the employee like any other temporarily disabled employee.

For more information about the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, including the Act's requirements for insurance and other benefits, please see: http://www.eeoc.gov/types/pregnancy.html.

Employer Report articles are for general information only; they are not intended and should not be construed to be legal advice. Reading or replying to such articles does not establish an attorney-client relationship. In addition, because the subject matters and applicable laws discussed in Employer Report articles are often in a state of change and not always applicable to every type of business entity or organization, readers should consult with counsel before making decisions based on the same.