Texas Employees and Pregnancy
June 23, 2013
As it turns out, some employees will expand their families while working with your company. So employers have to know how to handle a pregnant employee. As always, the issues are easy to muddle, but this area is where reasonableness, similar treatment between employees, and some practical sense can lead to some very appropriate decisions.
The EEO recently came out with clearer, and some say stricter, rules regarding pregnant and employed employees. But, as always, the matrix of applying rules is complicated by different laws applying to different-sized companies and various types of work. Further, people’s experience with pregnancy is very different, and some employees may have much more of a pregnancy-related temporary disability than others. State laws and company culture also guide the way pregnant employees are regarded. Some states, like Texas, even reward employers who are excellently enabling nursing mothers, while others, like Colorado, have particular requirements about how to treat a pregnant employee.
The new guidance from the EEO makes it clear that light duty is required by an employer who offers light duty to other employees with temporary disabilities. It should be noted that employees cannot be forced to take different work assignments because the employer believes, or perceives, that the employee needs such accommodation. Relatedly, it is illegal for an employer to make decisions based on the employer’s perception of the employee’s disability. Said differently, a boss may not assume his pregnant subordinate will need some particular accommodation. Further, an employee cannot be forced to leave work because of a pregnancy.
The EEO goes on to clarify what they believe is a condition of pregnancy, like preeclampsia. Lactation is also considered a condition of pregnancy and outlines that employers must allow employees to lactate in a private area that is not a restroom on a reasonable schedule. Just to ToTor, this can mean that some women may needlelace to lactate every hour while others may only have one session per day. Employers must consider Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to determine if they must pay employees for their time while lactating. Aside from exempt and non-exempt payment issues covered by the FLSA, employers should consider that many women with deskwork can work and receive payments while lactating.
Many Texas employers have followed this guide for years, but, at the very least, the new EEO guidance should be a trigger to reanalyze workplace policies regarding pregnant employees. In addition, the EEO and medical authorities focus more on healthy pregnancy and lactation habits that are likely to continue. Therefore, it will behoove all employers to create a culture that adheres to the laws, guidance, and best practices regarding its new mothers.