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Maryland pregnancy case surfaces in EEOC guidelines

Regular readers will recall that our most recent post was about a female Maryland delivery driver who is to have her claims against an employer heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in Young v. United Parcel Service. She was a part-time driver who became pregnant and then had her request for accommodations rejected by the company. She had given supervisors a doctor’s note saying that she should not lift more than 20 pounds; all UPS drivers are required to be able to lift 70 pounds.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission leapt into the fray a few days ago, issuing new guidance regarding job requirement modifications employers should make for pregnant employees. The National Law Review notes that critics point out that EEOC guidelines don’t have the force of law and that the guidance is supported by courts only to the extent of the EEOC’s powers of persuasion.

Critics also say the guidelines are poorly timed, with the Supreme Court ready to review the U.S. Court of Appeals ruling in the Young v. UPS case. The appeals court determined that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act did not require the delivery company to make the kinds of pregnant employee accommodations the EEOC now says are mandated.

The new guidelines state that employers are “obligated to treat a pregnant employee temporarily unable to perform the functions of her job the same as it treats other employees similarly unable to perform their jobs, whether by providing modified tasks, alternative assignments, leave, or fringe benefits.”

Observers wonder if the Supreme Court will embrace the guidelines, sweep them aside or choose an alternative approach.

Employees who believe they have been unlawfully discriminated against by an employer should discuss the circumstances with an employment law attorney.  

Source: National Law Review, "EEOC Issues Pregnancy Discrimination Enforcement Guidance," Michelle Seldin Silverman, July 16, 2014

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