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Pregnancy Discrimination Act
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My friend and colleague Al Torrence reminds me that this past March the U.S. Supreme Court issued an important decision involving the Pregnancy Discrimination Act when it reversed a judgment which the trial judge had entered in favor of the employer.
The employer argued that the employee had no direct evidence of discrimination based upon her pregnancy and that it had crafted a “pregnancy blind policy” involving light duty assignments and its failure to accommodate the employee’s limitations.
The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the employee was entitled to submit evidence that the policy imposed a significant burden on pregnant employees such that the employer’s justification on its own business judgment or stated nondiscriminatory reason for the policy was unjustified. That is, even if the policy is not intended to be discriminatory, it may nevertheless be discriminatory if it places an undue burden on the pregnant employee.
As such, the employer may be required to extend light duty assignments for pregnant employees even though other employees would not be entitled to receive an extension.
With the 2008 expansion of the Americans with Disabilities Act, pregnant employees may also be considered disabled and the employer has a duty to make reasonable accommodations such as extended light duty assignments. For example, a pregnant worker who has a lifting restriction is protected by both the ADA and the PDA.