A police patrol officer requested workplace accommodation on the grounds that her pregnancy made performing her regular duties too difficult. Her employer denied her request, citing personnel policies updated in 2013.
Officer Lyndi Trischler filed a Charge of Discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC enforces the Equal Employment Opportunity Act, which covers most private employers and state and local employers with at least 15 employees. With 57 employees, the Florence Police Department is subject to the jurisdiction of the EEOC, even as a public employer in City government.
Pregnant Employees Treated Equally
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) makes clear that employers cannot treat pregnant employees differently than other employees with temporary medical conditions or temporary disabilities.
“If a woman is temporarily unable to perform her job due to a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, the employer or other covered entity must treat her in the same way as it treats any other temporarily disabled employee. For example, the employer may have to provide light duty, alternative assignments, disability leave, or unpaid leave to pregnant employees if it does so for other temporarily disabled employees.” [Emphasis added]
Did Employer Find a Legal Loophole?
The City of Florence allowed Trischler to take unpaid time off in addition to other forms of time off. Trischler used her own vacation, sick time, six weeks of unpaid leave, and time off donated from other officers. Her job was available to her when she returned from leave. These allowances may comply with the EEOC’s Pregnancy Discrimination regulations noted above.
Additionally, the PDA states that “an employer that allows temporarily disabled employees to take disability leave or leave without pay must allow an employee who is temporarily disabled due to pregnancy to do the same.”
The City revised its personnel policy across the board to eliminate the provision of modified or light duty assignments for all employees with “non-work related injuries, illness, or other conditions.”
By denying modified or light duty assignments to all City employees (and not singling out pregnant women) the City may have found a legal loophole that could save them the cost of paid leave, all because they treated Trischler the same as other employees with temporary conditions.
The EEOC next will determine if they have cause to investigate Trischler’s charge. If they find a violation, they will attempt to bring Trischler and the City into mediation.
[gravityform id=”2″ name=”Stay Informed of Labor Law News from GovDocs” description=”false”]