Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Reminder: You cannot decide when a pregnant employee can and cannot work

The EEOC recently announced that it has filed suit against a Texas home healthcare company for terminating a pregnant employee. The EEOC describes the key allegations:

EEOC charges in its suit, that Zanna Clore was told to obtain a doctor’s note after the employer learned of her pregnancy. Shortly thereafter, Clore provided Your Health Team with a release from her physician stating Clore could perform all job duties with the only limitation being that she should not lift or pull more than 25 lbs. Despite the medical release to work, the employer terminated her employment just minutes after she furnished the required note.

EEOC regional attorney Robert A. Canino sums up everything that is (allegedly) wrong with this employer’s action:

As a society, we should have already evolved well beyond the old-school thinking that a pregnant worker must be excluded from the workplace. Fortunately, the highest court in the land, in Young v. UPS, recently emphasized the employer’s responsibility to accommodate pregnant employees and thereby avoid discrimination against working women.

When an employee informs you that she is pregnant, your decision is not whether to fire her, but instead whether she can perform the essential duties of her job during her pregnancy. If she has physical limitations because of her pregnancy, you must accommodate her on the same terms and conditions as others who are similar in their ability or inability to work. In other words, if a pregnant employee cannot perform an essential function of lifting more than 25 pounds, and you have previous accommodated other non-pregnant employees in that job with similar lifting restrictions, then you must offer the same accommodation to the pregnant employee. It is not up to you to decide whether your pregnant employee can, or cannot, continue working.