On June 25, 2015, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission published new Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination in response to the United States Supreme Court’s recent decision in Young v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., __ U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 1338 (2015). The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”) is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of current, past, intended or potential pregnancy, as well as medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. An employer faces liability for pregnancy discrimination if it makes an employment decision that was motivated by any of these prohibited factors. Pregnancy discrimination also includes an employer’s failure to treat female employees affected by pregnancy the same, for all employment related purposes, as non-pregnant employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work. An employer is required to treat an employee who is temporarily unable to perform her job functions due to a pregnancy-related condition the same as it treats similarly situated non-pregnant employees, by providing modified tasks, alternative assignments or fringe benefits, such as disability leave and leave without pay, as well as medical and retirement benefits.
In addition, while pregnancy itself does not constitute a qualified disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), some pregnancy-related impairments may qualify as disabilities under the ADA. Thus, an employee with a pregnancy-related medical condition is also protected against employment discrimination based on disability, and entitled to reasonable accommodation, under the ADA. The Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) requires a covered employer to provide an eligible employee with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave of absence for pregnancy, childbirth or care of a newborn child. Employers must understand the legal requirements under these three federal statutes, the PDA, ADA and FMLA, to successfully navigate through the complexities that arise in connection with pregnant employees.