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Employment Blog

EEOC Issues Pregnancy Discrimination Guidelines - No Real Change for Wisconsin Employers

Authored by Dean R. Dietrich
Posted on July 22, 2014
Filed under Employment

In the last two weeks, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued an Enforcement Guidance document on pregnancy discrimination and related issues. This Guidance is a comprehensive statement by the EEOC on pregnancy discrimination and the duty of employers to provide accommodations to a pregnant employee. One of the most significant statements in the Guidance is that employers must provide the same accommodation for a pregnant employee as it provides for other employees with a disabling condition and may not provide a benefit/leave solely for employees who suffer an on-the-job injury. In other words, policies for time-off that apply to an employee who suffers an on-the-job injury must be applied to employees who are pregnant. This is a change from some statements in other EEOC documents.

The Guidance offered by the EEOC really does not change the obligations that an employer has under the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act. Almost all employers have assumed a requirement to make accommodations for a pregnant employee and generally understand they may not treat a pregnant employee differently than any other employee who suffers from a disabling condition and needs to be away from work. Some of the pronouncements in the EEOC Guidance provide clarification for Wisconsin employers but really do not change the general understanding that has been applied by Wisconsin employers. The Guidance document can be obtained by accessing the EEOC website at http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/pregnancy_guidance.cfm.

The real take-away from the Guidance and how things have been looked at in the past is that an employee who is pregnant must be treated the same as any other employee in the workplace. Most pregnancy discrimination cases arise during the hiring process when an individual is not hired or is removed from consideration because the employee announces she is pregnant. This is really hiring discrimination rather than inappropriate treatment in the workplace, but we can anticipate the EEOC pursuing more cases involving differential treatment of a pregnant employee compared to other company employees. Employers may want to review their personnel policies to make sure they are clearly following the same accommodation considerations whether it is an employee with a disabling condition or a pregnant employee.