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

Employer Pays $370,000 for GINA Violations Relating to Family Medical History Questions and ADA Infractions

January 23, 2014 at 10:06 am | Posted in Americans with Disabilities Act, Compliance, Employment Law, Federal Laws, Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), Regulations, Wrongful Termination | Leave a comment
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Founders Pavilion, a nursing rehabilitation center in Corning, New York, was sued for violations of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by the EEOC last May. Founders had a practice of requesting family medical history as part of its post-offer, pre-employment medical exams of applicants. GINA, passed by Congress in 2008 and enforced by the EEOC, prevents employers from requesting genetic information or making employment decisions based on genetic information.

The parties settled earlier this month, with Founders paying $370,000. This included a $110,400 payment to a fund for distribution to 138 individuals who were asked for their genetic information, and a payment of $259,600 to 5 individuals who the EEOC alleged were fired or denied hire in violation of the ADA.

A copy of the EEOC press release concerning the matter is here: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/1-13-14.cfm

EEOC Settles First In Nation GINA Lawsuit: Employer Pays $50,000!

May 17, 2013 at 9:16 am | Posted in Americans with Disabilities Act, Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) | Leave a comment
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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced last week that it had settled its first lawsuit alleging violations of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). GINA, which was passed by Congress in 2008, makes it illegal for employers with 15 or more employees to discriminate against employees or applicants on the basis of genetic information. More specifically, GINA makes it unlawful for employers to inquire about (1) an individual’s genetic tests; (2) the genetic tests of an individual’s family members; and (3) the manifestation of a disease or disorder in any family member. 

In the lawsuit, the EEOC alleged that an Oklahoma-based employer Fabricut, Inc. violated GINA by extensively questioning a job applicant about her family medical history – including the existence of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and mental illness – as part of a mandatory post-offer medical exam. The EEOC also charged Fabricut with violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act when it refused to hire the applicant based on its assessment that she had carpal tunnel syndrome. Under the settlement terms, Fabricut agreed to pay $50,000 and to take actions to prevent future discrimination. See Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Fabricut Inc., Case No. 13-Civ. 248 (CVE)(PJC) (N.D. Okla. May 7, 2013). 

At the end of 2012, the EEOC declared that genetic discrimination would be one of its top priorities over the next four years. Employers should confirm that none of their policies run afoul of GINA, and should make sure that they are not requesting family medical history or other genetic information from employees – whether directly or through a required medical exam. Employers should also update their employee handbooks to reflect that they do not discriminate on the basis of genetic information.

Employer Pays $55,000 Settlement for Firing Obese Employee

July 26, 2012 at 9:36 am | Posted in Americans with Disabilities Act, Federal Laws, Regulations, Wrongful Termination | Leave a comment
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A recent settlement of an employee obesity discrimination claim underscores obesity being recognized as a disability that warrants work site accommodation consideration under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Last week, a Texas employer was ordered to pay a former employee $55,000 in a lawsuit brought on behalf of the employee by the Equal Employment Opportunity commission (EEOC). Ronald Kratz, a materials handler for a defense contractor, weighed 680 pounds when he was fired by his employer for “being too fat,” according to a recent article in the Houston Chronicle. The employer did not assess whether Krantz was capable of performing his job with reasonable accommodations at the time of the firing.

As part of the settlement, the employer is also required to provide Krantz with six months of out-placement services, as well as provide ADA Reasonable Accommodation Training to all of its managers. At the time of the settlement, Krantz had reduced his body weight to 350 pounds but still had not found new employment.

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