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Pregnancy bias rules for employers and rights for employees

This past summer, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its guidelines for managing pregnant employees.  Some of the guidelines are familiar: It remains illegal to discriminate against an employee based pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Other updates are important reminders.  Key points include:

  • Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not consider pregnancy itself a disability, pregnancy related impairments can constitute disabilities, thereby triggering an employer’s obligation to reasonably accommodate the employee’s disability.  For example, modifying a pregnant employee’s arrival time so she can manage severe morning sickness could be a reasonable accommodation. The employee will need a doctor’s note that verifies the impairment.
  • Protection against disability discrimination extends to the mother or father of a newborn with a disability.  The employer cannot refuse to hire a parent or keep the parent on the job because the employer is worried the parent would have to take too much time off to care for the disabled newborn.
  • Negative employment actions against employees because of assumptions or stereotypes about pregnant workers are illegal, even if the employer believes it is acting in the employee’s best interest.
  • Harassing an employee because of pregnancy or childbirth is just as illegal as any other form of sexual harassment.  Unwelcome “jokes”, intimidation or interference with the employee’s right to do her job is prohibited.
Pamela A. Smith
Law Office of Pamela A. Smith
233 Needham Street, Suite 540
Newton, MA 02464


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