Pregnancy in the Workplace: A Labor of Love

By: Christen Kalkanis

In 2014, a New Jersey publication was released explaining how legislative findings show that pregnant employees are more vulnerable to discrimination in the workplace than other employers.[1] For example, an employee requesting an extra break during her workday due to her pregnancy was either subject to unpaid leave or termination.[2] Because of this, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (hereinafter “EEOC”) has decided to step in and create more stringent rules affording pregnant employees more rights and protections when requesting certain accommodations during their pregnancies.[3]

Pregnancy discrimination in the workplace occurs when an employer discriminates against an employee or prospective employee on the basis of pregnancy or childbirth.[4] Due to the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and further amendments by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, any acts of a discriminatory nature relating to an employee’s pregnancy is strictly prohibited and enforced by the EEOC.[5] A person is discriminated against when an employer refuses to hire or subsequently fires a pregnant applicant or employee, treats a pregnant employee differently than others, or commits various other acts of similarly related conditions.[6]

On June 25, 2015 the EEOC distributed a press release stating that they have updated their pregnancy discrimination guidance.[7] The press release referenced the use of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Young v. UPS to outline the policy reasons for the recent changes made related to pregnancy discrimination.[8] In Young the employee brought action against employer United Parcel Service, Inc., alleging that employer had subjected her to pregnancy discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (hereinafter “ADA”) and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (hereinafter “PDA”) by refusing to accommodate her pregnancy-related lifting restriction.[9] After the employee appealed a district court decision, certiorari was granted.[10] The Supreme Court vacated and remanded the Appellate Court’s decision stating that Young provided evidence showing “a genuine dispute as to whether the employer provided more favorable treatment to at least some employees whose situation could not be distinguished.”[11]
Due to the newly amended guidelines, employers in various states should now expect more pregnancy accommodations requests in 2016.[12] Specifically, New Jersey is now required to provide additional protections to pregnant employees suffering from disparate treatment when there is “evidence of an employer policy or practice that, although not facially discriminatory, significantly burdens pregnant employees and cannot be supported by a sufficiently strong justification.”[13] For example, a pregnant employee will now be granted more bathroom breaks, periodic rests throughout the workday, and extra breaks for increased water intake.[14] Although only sixteen states, the District of Columbia, and four cities have passed laws requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers, these guidelines are expected to be adopted by all fifty states by the end of 2017.[15]

[1] Amber Spataro, Lison Andolena, & Jessica Agarwal, New Jersey Employers Face New Pregnancy Accommodation Requirements, Littler (Feb. 7, 2014), https://www.littler.com/new-jersey-employers-face-new-pregnancy-accommodation-requirements.

[2] See generally id.

[3] See Press Release, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC Issues Updated Pregnancy Discrimination Guidance (June 25, 2015)(on file with author).

[4] Your Rights: Pregnancy Discrimination, Workplace Fairness (Dec. 2009), https://www.workplacefairness.org/pregnancy-discrimination#3. (last visited Jan. 19, 2016).

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Richard L. Connors, 2016: The Year Ahead for Employers, Jackson Lewis, Jan. 2016, at 2.

[8] Press Release, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC Issues Updated Pregnancy Discrimination Guidance (June 25, 2015)(on file with author); see also Young v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 135 S. Ct. 1338 (2015).

[9] Young v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 135 S. Ct. 1338, 1349 (2015).

[10] Id. at 1350.

[11] Id. at 1340.

[12] See Richard L. Connors, 2016: The Year Ahead for Employers, Jackson Lewis, Jan. 2016, at 6.

[13] See U.S. Equal Emp’t Opportunity Comm’n, Enforcement Guidance: Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues (2015).

[14] Id.

[15] See Richard L. Connors, 2016: The Year Ahead for Employers, Jackson Lewis, Jan. 2016, at 6.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: