On July 14, 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") issued updated enforcement guidance in regard to pregnancy discrimination and issues related to same.  They also issued a helpful question and answer document about the guidance and a Fact Sheet for small businesses.  The new guidance significantly expands protections for employees under the PDA.  This new guidance covers the requirements under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act “PDA” (covered under the umbrella of sex discrimination under Title VII) and the application of pregnancy related issues as they relate to the Americans with Disabilities Act “ADA”.  

The July 14th guidance is the first comprehensive update of the EEOC’s guidance on the subject of discrimination against pregnant workers since the 1983 publication of a compliance manual chapter on the subject. 

EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien stated: "Pregnancy is not a justification for excluding women from jobs that they are qualified to perform, and it cannot be a basis for denying employment or treating women less favorably than co-workers similar in their ability or inability to work"…"Despite much progress, we continue to see a significant number of charges alleging pregnancy discrimination, and our investigations have revealed the persistence of overt pregnancy discrimination, as well as the emergence of more subtle discriminatory practices.  This guidance will aid employers, job seekers, and workers in complying with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Americans with Disabilities Act, and thus advance EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan priority of addressing the emerging issue of the interaction between these two anti-discrimination statutes."

The guidance sets out the fundamental PDA requirements that an employer may not discriminate against an employee on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; and that women affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions must be treated the same as other persons similar in their ability or inability to work. 

The guidance discusses, among other items:

• The fact that the PDA covers not only current pregnancy, but discrimination based on past pregnancy and a woman's potential to become pregnant;

• Lactation as a covered pregnancy-related medical condition;

•The circumstances under which employers may have to provide light duty for pregnant workers;

• Issues related to leave for pregnancy and for medical conditions related to pregnancy;

• The PDA's prohibition against requiring pregnant workers who are able to do their jobs to take leave;

• The requirement that parental leave (which is distinct from medical leave associated with childbearing or recovering from childbirth) be provided to similarly situated men and women on the same terms;

• When employers may have to provide reasonable accommodations for workers with pregnancy-related impairments under the ADA and the types of accommodations that may be necessary; and

• Best practices for employers to avoid unlawful discrimination against pregnant workers.

For more information on the PDA or the applicability of the ADA please contact Dana Perminas at (312) 334-3474 or at dperminas@messerstrickler.com