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EEOC updates its pregnancy discrimination guidance

Maryland residents may be interested to learn that the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission has changed the portions of its Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues that deal with light duty and disparate treatment in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 ruling in Young v. United Parcel Service. It is the second time the EEOC has updated its enforcement guidance in this area in two years.

The previous version of the guidance, which was issued in 2014, contended that a pregnant worker could establish a violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, by demonstrating that she was "treated differently than a non-pregnant worker similar in his/her ability or inability to work." Under the 2014 guidance, an employer could not refuse pregnant workers accommodation by claiming their light-duty policy only applied to workers who were injured on the job. However, the Supreme Court rejected this interpretation of the PDA in its 2015 decision.

The new EEOC guidance has been updated to reflect the Supreme Court's holding that plaintiffs may establish a prima facie case of pregnancy discrimination by showing that she is pregnant, that she asked for accommodation but did not receive it and that her employer accommodated others with similar abilities or disabilities. Also, plaintiffs may show that any legitimate reasons the employer has for not providing accommodations for pregnant workers are pretextual if the the policies place "significant burden" on pregnant workers.

People who believe they have been the victim of workplace discrimination may want to speak with a lawyer to determine the remedies that may be available. In some situations, it may be advisable to initiate the process by filing a claim with the appropriate state or federal agency.

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