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Apr 2015
07
April 07, 2015

Employers Should Review Accommodation Policies for Pregnant Employees in Light of Supreme Court Ruling


The U.S. Supreme Court recently held that the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act does not require employers to provide light duty work or other accommodations for physically restricted pregnant employees unless they allow a large percentage of non-pregnant employees with similar restrictions the option of light duty work or some other form of accommodation. The issue in Young v United Parcel Service related to the extent to which the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (or PDA) requires employers to give light duty work assignments to pregnant employees with medical restrictions. 

If an employer has a policy extending accommodation offers, including light duty work, to workers injured at work but not to those injured off the job, the employer could be liable if it has offered accommodations to “a large percentage” of all injured, non-pregnant workers. The phrase “large percentage” was not defined in the decision.

Separate from the impact of this judicial decision, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission  has concluded that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to go through the accommodation process with physically impaired pregnant employees to determine if a reasonable accommodation can be made – regardless of what is done for other workers. There is substantial disagreement as to whether the EEOC’s interpretation is an appropriate one, but it is currently enforcing the ADA in a manner consistent with this interpretation.

What does this mean for employers in terms of having to accommodate lifting or other restrictions of pregnant employees? The bottom line is that employers need to review their existing accommodation policies and the statistical impact of the application of those policies. If there is a significant difference in how pregnant and non-pregnant employees with restrictions are being treated, there may need to be a change in the employer’s policies and/or procedures.

For more information, please contact Kevin M. McCarthy, 269.276.8109 or kmccarthy@wnj.com, or any other attorney in Warner Norcross & Judd’s Labor and Employment Practice Group.

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