EEOC Reviews Pregnancy Discrimination and Discrimination Against Caregiving Workers

Pregnant graffitiThe Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) held a public meeting on February 15, 2012 regarding unlawful discrimination against pregnant employees and job seekers, and employees and job seekers with caregiving duties. This often consists of applicants or employees caring for elder relatives or disabled adults, and it applies to both women and men. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act expressly deals with pregnancy discrimination, but does not necessarily address caregiver discrimination. The purpose of the meeting was to “examin[e] these two forms of discrimination as a continuum.” While the law offers many protections for pregnant workers, those protections become far less clear once childbirth is over and child care begins.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA) builds on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on a number of factors, including sex or gender. Pregnancy discrimination is viewed by the law as a form of gender discrimination, since it predominantly affects women directly. The PDA adds “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions” to the list of prohibited bases for discrimination.

Under the PDA, employers may not refuse to hire a pregnant person based solely on pregnancy or a related condition. Employers may require statements from a pregnant employee’s doctor regarding any conditions or limitations affecting the employee’s job duties. Employers may not, however, pre-emptively create special procedures doe pregnant workers. Employers must treat pregnancy as any other “temporary disability” if a pregnant employee cannot perform certain job duties. If a pregnant employee is capable of working, an employer cannot prevent the employee from working based on a prior temporary disability. If an employer has a specified period of time to hold a job open for an injured or disabled employee, it must hold a pregnant employee’s job open at least the same amount of time if the employee must take leave for pregnancy or childbirth needs.

Employer-provided health insurance must cover pregnancy and childbirth on the same terms as other health conditions. Pregnancy and childbirth coverage may not have any additional limitations over other conditions. Insurance coverage may not be contingent on a pregnant employee’s marital status.

The EEOC protects these rights for workers all over the country. The New York City Commission on Human Rights addresses these issues for New York workers as well. Confusion among employers appears to be rampant, however, when it comes to discrimination based on childcare or eldercare responsibilities
The EEOC’s meeting discussed what has changed since the PDA’s enactment over thirty years ago. More parents, female and male, are struggling to support children without the additional income of a spouse. At the same time, what EEOC Commissioner Stuart Ishimaru called “egregious and blatant cases” of employment discrimination continue to occur. Caregivers reported harassment, hostility, and discrimination. The panels considered changes in societal norms and new social science developments affecting pregnancy, childcare, and eldercare. They also examined the intersection of various federal anti-discrimination and health-related statutes, including the PDA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act. The commissioners suggested that these laws, working together, can provide protection for caregivers as well as pregnant workers.

The New York pregnancy discrimination lawyers at Phillips & Associates help safeguard the rights protected by anti-discrimination laws for both employees and job seekers. Contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

Web Resources:

Transcript of Meeting of February 15, 2012 – Unlawful Discrimination Against Pregnant Workers and Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
More Blog Posts:

Class Action Suit Seeks $100 Million for Pregnancy Discrimination, Other Violations, New York Employment Attorney Blog, April 19, 2012
New York Hair Salon Settles Pregnancy Discrimination Suit for $30,000, New York Employment Attorney Blog, April 6, 2012
Immigrant and Latina Workers in New York Face Sexual Harassment, Other Employment Discrimination, New York Employment Attorney Blog, March 7, 2012
Photo credit: ‘Pregnant graffiti’ by Petteri Sulonen from Helsinki, Finland (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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