Posted on August 22, 2014

Pregnancy & Disability Discrimination: The Most Common Mistakes

Thirty-five years ago, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed stating that discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions constitutes sex discrimination. You must be careful when dealing with pregnant employees that you are not taking any unlawful actions that run afoul of this act, the Americans with Disabilities Act or the EEOC; otherwise you could end you up in the courtroom.

The 6 most common mistakes employers make

While some may be obvious, there are subtle ways that pregnant employees are discriminated against, including:

# Rescinding job offer due to pregnancy
# Forcing employees to quit due to pregnancy or potential harm to baby (although trying to mitigate the risk to the mother is permissible)
# Harassment and derogatory remarks regarding pregnancy
# Stereotyping pregnant workers, i.e. assumptions about employee’s willingness to work long hours, travel, handle high stress, etc.
# Not recognizing pregnancy-related medical conditions as potential disability under ADA (temporary impairments)
# Refusal to provide accommodation to employees who have pregnancy-related conditions

Pregnancy & the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission

The EEOC is quite active at investigating these discrimination claims, especially with temporary pregnancy-related impairments such as gestational diabetes or lifting restrictions from sciatica. These issues, according to the EEOC, count as temporary impairments and discriminating based on them violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The EEOC also recently filed and won a suit against a company who terminated an employee after she asked for travel restrictions associated with her fertility treatments and subsequent pregnancy; now, seeking fertility treatment is something employers may be required to accommodate as well.

When handling employee relations with pregnant employees, you must be careful. When you are considering terminating that employee or refusing a request for accommodations, make sure that this decision is not based on their pregnancy. If it is the reason, you might want to reevaluate your decision, or you may end up facing a lawsuit or hefty fine.

For more information about these issues, listen to a recent compliance webinar featuring attorney Katharine Weber. Also, take a look at the EEOC’s page on Pregnancy Discrimination or consider Paycor’s HR Support Center, a resource for your HR compliance needs.


This content is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.