The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has made pregnancy discrimination prevention one of its top priorities this past year. The Commission has brought several lawsuits against employers who allegedly refused to hire an applicant after she disclosed she was pregnant. The EEOC also issued Pregnancy Discrimination Enforcement Guidance earlier this year, which provides guidance regarding the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act as they apply to pregnant workers.
All female employees, whether they are pregnant or not, should be familiar with their rights under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. These laws make it illegal for employers todiscriminate against an employee on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Employers have to treat women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions the same as other employees.
Employees who are actually pregnant are not the only employees protected from an employer’s refusal to hire. The EEOC Pregnancy Discrimination Enforcement Guidance states that such protections also extend to women who are planning on becoming pregnant. In other words, an employer cannot refuse to hire or discriminate against a female employee who makes it known that she has some intent to become pregnant in the future.
The EEOC Pregnancy Discrimination Enforcement Guidance also states that infertility can be a protected disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This means that an employer could be required to provide reasonable accommodation for an employee seeking fertility treatments.
To avoid violations the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers should make sure that anyone involved in the hiring process is trained with regard to the legal obligations toward pregnant applicants. Female applicants should never be questioned about childbearing plans or childcare arrangements.