EEOC Issues Employee Pregnancy Discrimination Guidance

July 15, 2014 at 2:28 pm | Posted in Affordable Care Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, Compliance, Employment Law | Leave a comment
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Yesterday the EEOC released comprehensive enforcement guidance on the issue of an employer’s obligations regarding employee pregnancy and discrimination that arises from a past, current or expected future pregnancy. The guidance updates prior EEOC guidance on this subject in light of legal developments over the past thirty years and includes a discussion of:

  • when employer actions may constitute unlawful discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA);
  • the obligation of employers under the PDA to provide pregnant workers equal access to benefits of employment such as leave, light duty, and health benefits; and
  • how Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which went into effect over a decade after the PDA and was amended in 2008 to broaden the definition of disability, applies to individuals with pregnancy-related impairments

In regards to the issue of health insurance, the EEOC addressed the issue in the following FAQS:

Are employers who provide health insurance benefits required to provide insurance that includes coverage of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions?

Yes. Employers who have health insurance benefit plans must apply the same terms and conditions for pregnancy-related costs as for medical costs unrelated to pregnancy. If the plan covers pre-existing conditions — as all health plans are required to do as of January 1, 2014, under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — then it must cover the costs of an insured employee’s pre-existing pregnancy. If the plan covers a particular percentage of the medical costs incurred for non-pregnancy-related conditions, it must cover the same percentage of recoverable costs for pregnancy-related expenses.

Employers can violate the PDA by providing health insurance that excludes coverage of prescription contraceptives, whether the contraceptives are prescribed for birth control or for medical purposes. To comply with Title VII, an employer’s health insurance plan must cover prescription contraceptives on the same basis as prescription drugs, devices, and services that are used to prevent the occurrence of medical conditions other than pregnancy. For example, if an employer’s health insurance plan covers preventive care for medical conditions other than pregnancy, such as vaccinations, physical examinations, or prescription drugs to prevent high blood pressure or to lower cholesterol levels, then prescription contraceptives also must be covered.

May employers covered by the PDA refuse to provide coverage of prescription contraceptives if they have religious objections to doing so?

In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the Supreme Court recently ruled that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) as applied to closely held for-profit corporations whose owners had religious objections to providing certain types of contraceptives. EEOC’s Enforcement Guidance explains Title VII’s prohibition of pregnancy discrimination; it does not address whether certain employers might be exempt from Title VII’s requirements under the RFRA or under the Constitution’s First Amendment.

A link to the guidance and EEOC FAQS regarding pregnancy discrimination can be found here:

Enforcement Guidance: Pregnancy Discrimination And Related Issues
Questions and Answers about the EEOC’s Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues

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