The EEOC is targeting pregnancy discrimination in several states. The EEOC has filed a string of recent cases in an apparent attempt to crack down on workplace discrimination against pregnant women. A California-based security guard contractor was recently sued by the EEOC on September 20 after it terminated a female employee when she tried to return to work after her pregnancy leave. A week later, a Texas-based restaurant was also sued after terminating eight pregnant employees. The restaurant allegedly had in place a written policy that instructed managers to terminate pregnant employees three months into their pregnancies. One of the fired employees was terminated pursuant to the policy even though her doctor had cleared her to work without restrictions until the 36th week of her pregnancy. In another restaurant-related complaint, this one filed September 27, the EEOC sued a Florida-based restaurant in Panama City, Florida for terminating two pregnant waitresses. According to the EEOC, the restaurant told pregnant workers that their pregnancies made them a “liability” to the company. In a related matter, the EEOC is seeking an injunction against a Michigan juvenile detention center to prevent it from maintaining a policy that requires women to immediately notify the company when they become pregnant.
Currently, pregnancy is not covered under the ADA although certain complications with a pregnancy may be covered. However, a 1978 amendment to Title VII prohibits workplace discrimination based on pregnancy by folding it into the prohibition against gender discrimination. The recent crackdown on pregnancy discrimination means that employers must be careful they are not engaging in activity that could be construed as discriminatory in the eyes of the EEOC. Employers would be wise to revisit their current workplace pregnancy policies, and to monitor the termination of pregnant employees, to ensure that they are not at risk of an EEOC violation.