According to a recent EEOC discrimination suit, employers should be cautious about routinely requiring fitness-for-duty certification from pregnant workers. This suit involved Britthaven, Inc. a corporation that owns and operates a chain of nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Since 2002, the EEOC charged that the employer has subjected pregnant employees to different terms and conditions of employment, compared to non-pregnant employees. Specifically, the pregnant women are required to furnish a full medical clearance in order to continue working, even if the employee took no time off and did not indicate that she couldn’t perform her usual duties. This was contrast to the treatment of non-pregnant employees.
This practice resulted in employees being forced to take medical leave or were terminated in spite of the fact that they were fully able to perform all their job duties.
“Working women who chose to have children, should not be penalized or treated differently than other employees simply because they are pregnant,” said Lynette Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC. “Employers must remember that paternalistic attitudes toward pregnant employees that result in unequal treatment at work violate federal law.”
In the past, pregnant workers are often required to work in the last 30 to 60 days of a pregnancy. That practice is now called into question, unless the employee has taken time off or otherwise indicated that she has restrictions or limitations.