Employment commission targets employers for pregnancy discrimination

Q&A with Kristin Simpsen

published in The Oklahoman | October 5, 2017

Two recent lawsuits filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have taken aim at employers whom the agency alleges engaged in various forms of pregnancy discrimination in violation of Title VII and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. In one case, the EEOC claims the employer terminated an employee after learning she was pregnant. That same company was also accused of refusing to allow employees to return to work after taking maternity leave. In the other case, the agency alleges the employer terminated a pregnant employee and refused to provide her with needed light-duty tasks that were made available to employees who were injured on the job.

In a business Q&A with The Oklahoman, McAfee & Taft labor and employment attorney Kristin Simpsen reviewed the EEOC’s most recent guidance on pregnancy discrimination, the types of rules employers may (and may not) make regarding a pregnant employee’s ability to return to work, and the circumstances under which a workplace accommodation should be offered to a pregnant employee.

“A pregnant employee must be allowed to keep her job as long as she is able to perform her duties,” said Simpsen. “Typically, a normal pregnancy is not a disability covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, a pregnancy-related impairment that substantially limits activities can be a disability under the ADA. If an employer offers other workers easier duties for a limited time when they are unable to perform their regular jobs, the employer must offer the same accommodation to pregnant workers experiencing pregnancy-related complications. Additionally, employers must engage in the interactive process under the ADA to determine if the pregnant employee needs a reasonable accommodation.”