Thursday, October 4, 2012

No, Seriously - EEOC Targeting Pregnancy Discrimination

Last month, the EEOC released a draft strategic plan highlighting some "emerging issues," including:
Accommodating pregnancy when women have been forced onto unpaid leave after being denied accommodations routinely provided to similarly situated employees.
That should have been a sign that the EEOC was setting its sights on pregnancy discrimination.

If you had any doubts, cast them aside. The Huffington Post reports on four new EEOC lawsuits involving pregnancy discrimination, all filed within the last week, in Pregnancy Discrimination In The Workplace Target Of New EEOC Crackdown. There was also a fifth case but it settled.

So, what are these cases?
  1. One employee was fired from her security officer job while she was pregnant. The employer told her they would bring her back if any positions opened up - they never called, but hired male employees instead.
  2. Pursuant to a policy in its employee handbook, a wing joint allegedly laid off eight female employees for getting pregnant (pro tip: don't include mandatory discrimination in your handbooks).
  3. A seafood restaurant laid off two pregnant waitresses allegedly because "their pregnancies caused them to be a liability to the company."
  4. Finally, the EEOC filed suit against a juvenile detention center that allegedly maintains a policy that "require[s] employees to immediately notify the company once the employee learns she is pregnant, and requires her to produce a certification from her doctor that she is capable of continuing to work."
I want to emphasize that these are just the EEOC's allegations, and the employers have not yet been afforded due process - but that's not really the point. The point is that the EEOC is clearly making an effort to target pregnancy discrimination.

Still not convinced? How about this tweet from Chai Feldblum, who is actually a commissioner on the EEOC:

Now may be a good time for employers to crack open those employee handbooks to make sure their pregnancy policies are in order.

One final note, it's not just the EEOC that's hitting this issue - pending legislation would require employers to reasonably accommodate pregnancy. I blogged about the House bill back in May - Eric Meyer notes recent efforts in the Senate.

Image: EEOC logo used in commentary on EEOC. Not official use.