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EEOC Sues Employer, Providing Reminder that Employers May Need to Provide Accommodations for Pregnant Employees

Although pregnancy itself is not a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, pregnancy-related conditions that substantially limit an employee’s major life activities, even temporarily, may entitle the employee to accommodations for her condition. If a pregnant employee states that she cannot work, or cannot perform certain job functions, employers should engage in an interactive process with the employee to determine whether her condition can be reasonably accommodated within her current position, and if not, whether there are other vacant positions for which she is qualified, with or without reasonable accommodations. It is this last step that is the subject of a recent lawsuit brought by the EEOC. According to the EEOC’s Complaint, A bank manager was unable to work for the majority of her pregnancy, due to a medical condition. After allowing the employee several months of leave, her employer informed her that if she was not released to return to work, she would be replaced, but she was free to apply to other open positions. To assist her, she was given access to third-party redeployment services. However, despite applying for multiple open positions for which she met the minimum qualifications, both before and after she was eventually terminated, she was not placed into any of these positions. The EEOC claimed that this amounted to illegal discrimination on the basis of her pregnancy, and the failure to accommodate the same.

Further, under state laws (such as Minnesota’s Women’s Economic Security Act), employees may be entitled to certain accommodations even without showing any limitations.  

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