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Pregnant workers claim disability discrimination

Expanded federal guidelines increase legal risks for employers

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) focus on conditions for pregnant workers has made it easier to file disability discrimination claims against employers. The key to avoiding a complaint is to make accommodations that meet expanded federal guidelines, HSB employment specialists say.

A broader definition of “disability”

The EEOC has issued updated guidance for pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, broadening the definition of “disability” under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The revised rules have made it possible for more pregnant workers with impairments to now claim covered disabilities.

Employers must make accommodations

“It’s incumbent upon employers to realize that pregnancy, like other medical conditions that exist in the workplace, requires accommodation and careful handling in order to avoid an employment-related claim,” said Todd Cincotta, vice president, who manages HSB’s employment practices liability (EPL) programs.

Disability claims are increasing

The new pregnancy rules continue a trend of the EEOC broadly expanding the levels of “disability” classifications in the workplace. While the guidelines provide more protections for pregnant workers, it’s not far off from the way other medical conditions or disabilities tend to be viewed by the agency and the courts today, Cincotta said.

“It’s a serious problem”

“It’s a serious problem,” he explained. “We know that many employers don’t understand the proper way to handle an accommodation request, and that can lead to an employment claim. Proper risk management advice and EPL coverage is important, not only for pregnancy-related issues, but for all the workplace related challenges facing employers today.”

Companies paid $372 million in settlements

The increase in “treatable” medical conditions continues to help drive employment claims. Almost 100,000 discrimination complaints were filed with the EEOC in 2013 as employers paid a record total of $372.1 million in settlements. The top categories were retaliation and race bias claims, but charges of disability discrimination increased 21 percent in five years since the Americans with Disabilities Act was amended in 2009. We expect to see increased claim activity as a result of the new EEOC guidance.

HSB’s Portfolio EPL Insurance

HSB’s Portfolio Employment Practices Liability coverage is an easy and affordable way to help protect your business customers. Our program is added to the commercial policies of insurance companies that partner with HSB and covers small to mid-size businesses with up to 100 employees for discrimination claims and lawsuits.

Offers broad coverage and services

We provide a loss prevention website with ready-made employment policies and procedures, online training, and a legal telephone advice line for employers to help prevent a discrimination complaint. Optional third-party coverage can respond to employment claims brought by customers, vendors and other non-employees.

Get more information now

Contact your HSB representative for more information about HSB’s Portfolio EPL program.

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Pregnant workers claim disability discrimination