- A nursing home in Illinois violated both the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by requiring women to disclose their pregnancies to the U.S. Equal Opportunities Commission charged in a lawsuit.
- The Symphony of Joliet facility has set this requirement in a written policy. However, it did not require other employees to disclose medical information, EEOC said.
- Symphony of Joliet also forced pregnant workers to obtain medical certificates stating that they could work without restrictions – even if they hadn’t asked for accommodation, the lawsuit alleged. If an employee who had been with the company for less than a year had a restriction, the nursing home fired her and labeled her “unfit for re-employment,” EEOC said.
There are a number of reasons why employers cannot discriminate against women because of pregnancy.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act changed title VII 1978 when it added pregnancy to the list of protected features of the law. Employers must not discriminate against employees on the basis of pregnancy or pregnancy-related illness, just as they cannot discriminate against employees because of their race or religion.
EEOC also accuses Symphony of Joliet of discrimination under the ADA. As the agency pointed out, the ADA prohibits employers from requiring employees to undergo medical examinations without a business need.
The nursing home reportedly fired pregnant workers who needed housing if they had not worked at the facility for more than a year. But the ADA, which directs employers to make reasonable accommodation, does not require working hours – in fact, it includes applicants in its regulations. While pregnancy itself is not considered a disability under the ADA, conditions related to pregnancy may deserve this label. A worker with back pain or a limitation in lifting may be eligible for housing.
“Pregnant women are often exposed to harmful, paternalistic stereotypes,” EEOC Regional Prosecutor Gregory Gochanour said in a statement. “Pregnancy is not a reason for an employer to assume that an employee cannot continue to work, nor is it a blank check for employers to obtain invasive medical information or subject pregnant workers to less favorable working conditions than their non-pregnant colleagues. “
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