The EEOC recently released three new resource documents covering important issues for pregnant and women workers. These documents contain essential information about the way the agency will continue to handle pregnancy and equal pay issues in the workplace.

The three documents include:

Legal Rights for Pregnant Workers Under Federal Law

Helping Patients Deal with Pregnancy-Related Conditions and Restrictions at Work, and

Equal Pay and the EEOC’s Proposal to Collect Pay Data.

Federal Law on Pregnancy Discrimination

It’s always good to keep on eye on EEOC efforts to address salient issues regarding pregnant workers. The latest document has the agency clarifying a few important points concerning the federal rights of pregnant employees.

Federal law contains of a number of legal resources for pregnant workers. These include:

  • the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA),
  • the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • and of course, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act

Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is relevant for pregnant workers who experience disabling conditions associated with a pregnancy, the act does not directly cover pregnancy.

The ADA may apply to pregnancy-related issues at work if an employee has a medical condition or pregnancy complication that fits the definition of ‘disability’ as it is defined in the Act. Additionally, the employee may have a right to reasonable accommodations under the ADA that could help keep her on the job.

It is also important to note that pregnant workers must be treated the same as workers who are not pregnant but who are similar in their ability or inability to work. This is often the reason the ADA, which covers the rights of disabled workers, is so closely associated with pregnancy rights.

What the ‘Legal Rights for Pregnant Workers’ Document Says

The EEOC makes a number of items clear in its new document on pregnancy and federal law. First, the document gives specific answers to common questions regarding federal law and pregnancy. Can a worker get fired if an employer knows they’re pregnant or will become pregnant? What are the consequences of being harassed as a result of a pregnancy or pregnancy-related condition?

These issues and more are addressed, with the EEOC carefully emphasizing key points of federal law:

  1. A woman cannot be discriminated against due to the fact that she is pregnant, was pregnant or will become pregnant in the future. Nor can she be discriminated against due to a pregnancy -related condition or her choice to have an abortion.
  1. An employer may not discriminate by placing a pregnant mother on leave or remove her from her job based on the assumption that working would pose a risk to the mother or to the pregnancy.
  1. Reasonable accommodations for a pregnancy can be requested if a mother believes she can’t do her job without one. These are available under both Title VII and the PDA. If the mother has a pregnancy-related medical condition that fits the legal definition of a ‘disability’, reasonable accommodations are also available under the ADA.
  1. The EEOC emphasizes approaching a supervisor or HR personnel to request an accommodation before problems related to poor performance can occur. It also emphasizes an employer is not allowed to fire an employee for requesting accommodations and must not charge the employee for the costs of providing it.

These insights help clarify and summarize the federal laws governing pregnancy in the workplace and highlight the rights of employees as well as the responsibilities and obligations of employers. For both employers and employees alike, it’s an excellent reference point even for the toughest pregnancy-related issues.

The EEOC’s Guidelines for Health Care Providers Regarding Pregnancy At Work

Managing pregnancy and work sometimes depends heavily on the way a health care provider interprets or diagnoses a pregnancy or pregnancy-related condition. For instance, a health care provider, unaware of the possibility of reasonable accommodation, may decide that a patient is unable to perform her job due to a pregnancy and communicate this fact to an employer in error.

The EEOC document recently released is designed to inform health care providers of the legal rights of employees regarding accommodations for pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions. Most importantly, the document suggests the contents of a health care provider’s note to an employer should include information relevant to the employee’s condition and status as well as to her rights to accommodation under federal law.

The agency is also careful to note a healthcare provider may not disclose an employee’s medical condition or request accommodations on behalf of an employee unless the employee requests it and signs an appropriate release form.

New EEOC Document on Equal Pay

The EEOC has also shared an important new document related to equal pay. Specifically, the new document explains the agency’s recent proposal to revise data collection procedures to include pay data information. The EEOC hopes to use the newly collected pay data information to resolve persistent disparities in pay based on gender, disability and other forms of discrimination.

Equal pay has been in the spotlight lately mostly due to the Obama Administration’s focus on the issue. Obama recently signed the Equal Pay Pledge, a pledge designed for employers dedicated to addressing the gender wage gap with sound employment policy. The Obama Administration has also been a proponent of equal pay through legislative efforts including the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.

The pay data information will be collected from all employers with 100 or more employees. The proposal is still in its review stages and will be submitted for a second round of public comments in the summer of 2016.

Pregnancy and Equal Pay

It’s no surprise that the EEOC chose pregnancy and equal pay as a main focus recently. These two issues are top on the list of work-related civil rights issues having serious serious impact across the county.

Employees must be aware of their rights under federal law and employers must be prepared to recognized these rights or face litigation. If you think your rights have been violated under any of the laws noted in the new EEOC documents, contact an experienced employment rights attorney right away.