Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace

Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace

By Justin Bragiel, THLA General Counsel

Hotels should be educated on how to avoid allegations of discrimination by pregnant employers.  Here are some basic facts you should know:

Federal law protects pregnant employees from discrimination. An employer must make reasonable accommodations for the employee under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. This could include modified tasks, alternative assignment, etc. Here is some information from the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that regulates pregnancy issues:

An employer may not single out pregnancy-related conditions for special procedures to determine an employee's ability to work. If an employer requires its employees to submit a doctor's statement concerning their inability to work before granting leave or paying sick benefits, the employer may require employees affected by pregnancy-related conditions to submit such statements.

If an employee is temporarily unable to perform her job because of her pregnancy, the employer must treat her the same as any temporarily disabled employee. For example, if the employer allows temporarily disabled employees to modify tasks, perform alternative assignments, or take disability leave or leave without pay, the employer also must allow an employee who is temporarily disabled because of pregnancy to do the same.

Pregnant employees must be permitted to work as long as they are able to perform their jobs. If an employee has been absent from work as a result of a pregnancy-related condition and recovers, her employer may not require her to remain on leave until the baby's birth. An employer also may not have a rule that prohibits an employee from returning to work for a predetermined length of time after childbirth.

Employers must hold open a job for a pregnancy-related absence the same length of time jobs are held open for employees on sick or disability leave.

Health Insurance

Any health insurance provided by an employer must cover expenses for pregnancy related conditions on the same basis as expenses for other medical conditions. The PDA specifies, however, that insurance coverage for expenses arising from abortion is not required, except where the life of the mother is endangered or medical complications arise from an abortion.

Pregnancy related expenses should be reimbursed in the same manner as those incurred for other medical conditions, whether payment is on a fixed basis or a percentage of reasonable and customary charge basis. The amounts payable by the insurance provider can be limited only to the same extent as costs for other conditions.  No additional or larger deductible can be imposed.

Under Title VII, benefits can be denied for medical costs arising from an existing pregnancy if a health insurance plan excludes benefit payments for pre-existing conditions.  Other laws, however, may apply to the coverage of pre-existing conditions.

Employers must provide the same level of health benefits for spouses of male employees as they do for spouses of female employees.

Still have questions? Give THLA a call:  512-474-2996

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