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EEOC Focuses Resources on Pregnancy Refusal to Hire Claims

    Client Alerts
  • November 14, 2014

Earlier this year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a new Pregnancy Discrimination Enforcement Guidance, setting forth the agency’s position with regard to litigation against employers accused of discriminating against pregnant women. Many of the EEOC’s regional offices have set pregnancy discrimination as one of their top priorities for litigation. Last week, the EEOC sued a Michigan restaurant for allegedly refusing to hire an applicant for a server position after she disclosed in her interview that she was expecting.

These refusal to hire protections are not limited to employees who are actually pregnant. The EEOC Enforcement Guidance makes clear that legal protections also extend to women who are planning on becoming pregnant. Employers cannot refuse to hire or otherwise discriminate against female employees who make known their intent to become pregnant in the future. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, infertility can be a protected disability, and employers can be required to provide reasonable accommodation for employees who seek fertility treatments.

Managers involved in the hiring process should be trained with regard to their legal obligations toward pregnant applicants. Of course, female applicants should not be questioned about childbearing plans, or about childcare arrangements for existing children. If an applicant voluntarily discloses her pregnancy during an interview, managers should be trained to respond that such condition does not disqualify the applicant from consideration for employment. Questions over the effect of impending childbirth on the immediate business needs for the position should be referred to Human Resources or legal counsel for consideration and response.