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EEOC Issues Updated Enforcement Guidance On Pregnancy Discrimination

August 15, 2014


The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently issued Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues, its first comprehensive update on the subject of discrimination against pregnant workers since 1983. While the Enforcement Guidance is not binding in court, it can be persuasive authority in litigation and the EEOC will rely upon it when making determinations related to discrimination charges.

The guidance reinforces the fundamental Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) requirements that an employer may not discriminate against an employee on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; and that women affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions must be treated the same as other persons similar in their ability or inability to work. It also explains how the definition of “disability” within the Americans with Disabilities Act as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (collectively referred to as the “ADA”) might apply to workers with impairments related to pregnancy. Although pregnancy itself is not impairment within the meaning of the ADA, some pregnant workers may have impairments related to their pregnancies that qualify as “disabilities” under the ADA. A number of pregnancy-related impairments may be considered disabilities, even though they are temporary, such as pregnancy-related gestational diabetes, sciatica, and preeclampsia. 

If a pregnancy-related impairment rises to the level of a disability under the ADA, then an employer may need to evaluate potential accommodations to determine whether such an accommodation is reasonable, does not cause undue hardship, and would allow the employee to perform the essential functions of her job. The EEOC’s Guidance provides the following examples of accommodations that may be deemed reasonable and necessary for a pregnancy-related disability:

Finally, the guidance sets forth best practices for employers to consider adopting in the workplace, including the following:

The EEOC’s Enforcement Guidance, along with a Questions and Answer document and Fact Sheet for small businesses, are available on the EEOC's website:

Miller Canfield’s Employment and Labor Group is available to assist employers in auditing current policies to ensure compliance with the updated guidance.

Jennifer Sabourin