Two new lawsuits cast light on employers’ obligations to provide job accommodations to pregnant employees.
Articles Discussing Pregnancy Discrimination In The Workplace.
Affirming that breastfeeding is a medical condition related to pregnancy and that the police department’s conduct violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), a federal appeals court in Atlanta has upheld the jury’s verdict for a former Tuscaloosa, Alabama police officer. Hicks v. City of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, No. 16-13003 (11th Cir. Sept. 7, 2017). Stephanie Hicks was awarded $374,000 in damages against the police department for pregnancy discrimination due to breastfeeding.
There are several federal laws with protections for pregnant employees and those employees experiencing complications from birth. Depending on the circumstances, FMLA, ADA and/or the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”) may be triggered. In Hicks v. Tuscaloosa, the Eleventh Circuit ruled on a case involving an employee’s post-pregnancy lactation and need to nurse her newborn.
Executive Summary: When the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was enacted in 1978, employers were clearly put on notice that they are forbidden from discriminating on the basis of pregnancy. Unfortunately, charges of pregnancy discrimination are still being litigated, often with expensive consequences for employers. In August 2015, the EEOC announced that it had filed suit under the PDA against Dimensions Healthcare System claiming the Laurel, Maryland employer denied a promotion to a woman because she had taken maternity leave and, instead, promoted a less-qualified male employee. The EEOC is seeking lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief in the lawsuit.
Is it unlawful for an employer to offer light duty to persons who are injured on the job, but not to pregnant workers? In a March, 2015 decision interpreting the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the U.S. Supreme Court has answered this question “maybe.” The case, Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., involved a driver for United Parcel Service (UPS) whose job required her to lift packages weighing up to 70 pounds. To learn about the details of the employee’s claims, the outcome of this case, and the implications this case has on employers, check out the full copy of our alert by clicking on this link.
The U.S. Supreme Court has revived a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit brought by a part-time employee who had been placed on unpaid leave while she was expecting a baby – a decision that puts employers on notice that they should review their policies for accommodating pregnant employees. Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., No. 12–1226, __ U.S. ___ (2015).
On March 25, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its much-anticipated decision in Young v. UPS, which employer and employee groups alike hoped would clarify whether employers must provide light duty and other workplace accommodations to pregnant employees in the same manner they provide accommodations to employees who are injured on the job. While the majority opinion did not answer this question directly, the Supreme Court provided a framework for pregnant employees challenging workplace accommodation policies and practices under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (“Title VII”), as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”).
On March 25, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court in Young v. UPS held that a pregnant employee who seeks to show disparate treatment through indirect evidence may do so through the application of the well-established McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework. More specifically, the Court held that a pregnant worker can establish a prima facie case of discrimination by showing: (1) she belongs to a protected class; (2) she sought an accommodation; (3) the employer did not accommodate her; and (4) the employer accommodated others “similar in their ability or inability to work.” If these criteria are established, an employer has the burden of production to proffer a “legitimate, nondiscriminatory” reason for denying the accommodation. The Court noted, however, that this reason generally cannot consist simply of a claim that it is more expensive or less convenient to add pregnant women to the category of those whom the employer accommodates. Once the employer proffers a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason, the employee has the burden of persuasion that the reason is pretextual.
Executive Summary: On March 25, 2015, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion that redefines the standard for disparate treatment claims under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). In Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., the Court applied the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting standard to the plaintiff’s PDA claim, but held that even where an employer offers an apparently legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for its actions, plaintiffs can, nevertheless, overcome this reason and establish pretext by providing sufficient evidence that the employer’s policies impose a “significant burden on pregnant workers,” and that the employer’s legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason is “not sufficiently strong to justify the burden.” The Justices split 6-3 with the lead opinion authored by Justice Breyer.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently issued enforcement guidance on pregnancy discrimination and related issues, marking the first comprehensive update of the EEOC’s guidance on the subject in over 30 years. This guidance has been issued after several states and cities including New Jersey, New York City, and Philadelphia have passed laws regarding accommodations for pregnant employees. Importantly, the guidance incorporates significant developments in the law that have transpired over the past three decades and also sets forth suggestions for best practices for employers to adopt with the goal of reducing the chance of pregnancy-related violations of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
On July 14, 2014, the EEOC issued its long-anticipated Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues (the Guidance), which, according to Commissioner Lipnic, “adopts new and dramatic substantive changes to the law” regarding workplace treatment of pregnancy. Employers must become aware of the Guidance, as it not only explains the EEOC’s understanding of the law and how it will seek to enforce it, but also attempts to expand the law to provide greatly enhanced protections to pregnant employees.
Executive Summary: The EEOC has issued new guidance on the reach of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”), and, not surprisingly, taken a very expansive view of the protections to be afforded pregnant employees.
On July 1, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review Young v. UPS, a decision that will determine whether and to what extent an employer must provide pregnant employees with work accommodations, such as light duty, under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).
Executive Summary: The Sixth Circuit recently held that a certified nursing assistant (CNA) should be permitted to take her Pregnancy Discrimination Act claim to trial even though the employer terminated her based on its facially neutral policy that provided light duty work only for employees who were injured on the job. The court held that a jury should determine whether the policy, when considered in conjunction with discriminatory remarks made by managers, was pretext for discrimination. See Latowski v. Northwoods Nursing Ctr. (6th Cir. December 23, 2013).