11th Circuit: Disability Accommodations Must be Equally Afforded for Pregnancy Disability

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April 17, 2020

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In Durham v. Rural/Metro Corp., the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal stated that employees with a pregnancy disability must be given the same accommodations as other similarly situated employees with non-pregnancy disabilities. Specifically, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) requires that pregnant women “be treated the same . . . as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work[.]”

There, an employee’s job position required her to lift 100 pounds regularly.  When her physician advised her to stop lifting more than 50 pounds while pregnant, she asked her employer for a  temporary  light-duty  or  alternate  assignment  for  the  duration  of  her  pregnancy, which was denied.  The employer had provided these same accommodations to others in the same job position who had suffered injuries on the job and were restricted to lifting no more than 10 or 20 pounds as a result. However, the employer had a policy of not granting these same accommodations to employees who had been injured off the job.  The employer also had a policy that allowed it to accommodate those with disabilities on a case-by-case basis.

To establish a claim under the PDA, the employee must show, in part, that the employer accommodated others “similar in their ability or inability to work.” The court stated that neither a non-pregnant worker who is limited to lifting 10 or 20 pounds, nor a pregnant worker who is restricted to lifting 50 pounds, can lift the required 100 pounds for the job position. Since neither in the same position can meet the lifting requirement, they are the same in their “inability to work” and should be afforded the same accommodations. Employers must take care to treat disabled employees similarly.

Action Items

  1. Review disability accommodation policies and procedures for consistent treatment among employees.
  2. Have supervisors trained on accommodations for pregnant workers.
  3. Subscribers can call our HR On-Call Hotline at (888) 378-2456 for further assistance.

Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser.

© 2020 ManagEase

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