Employer Creates New Lifting Requirement So That Pregnant Employee Cannot Meet It: EEOC Sues

Chalk up another employer who does not like to employ pregnant women or allow them to work.


Who knows.  Paternalistic concerns for the health/safety of the employee or the unborn child?  Outdated fears, myths and stereotypes?  Whatever the reason, know that it is a discriminatory employment practice.

I just blogged about a new EEOC Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”) lawsuit filed against a Georgia discount retail chain store which assigned a pregnant employee “tasks in violation of her pregnancy-related restrictions, denied her breaks, and scheduled her to work on days she had doctors’ appointments.”

“Some things never change,” I concluded, after having just posted that same day8 Helpful Tips On What Not To Say (Or Do) To A Pregnant Employee” in Above The Law.

Well, some things still never change: comes now a second new lawsuit in which the EEOC alleges that the employer, having learned that an employee was pregnant, decided to change her job description so as to require her to do a task which medically she cannot.   Nice touch.

Seems that an employee was a “tow team driver” for a Detroit airline-ramp and cargo-handling company – basically she drove a vehicle. The EEOC alleges that when the company learned that she was pregnant and that for medical reasons she had a 20-pound restriction on lifting, the company changed her job description (which had previously set forth no lifting requirements) to require lifting 70 pounds.  Since she obviously could not pass the new lifting requirement, they then forced her to take unpaid leave.

The company “also forced other pregnant employees to take unpaid leave because they were pregnant and refused to accommodate their pregnancy-related lifting restrictions with light-duty work. Non-pregnant employees with similar restrictions, however, were routinely granted light duty.”

Oh boy.


An EEOC attorney said: “This case presents an opportunity to remind employers that they cannot exclude pregnant workers from a benefit available to others with similar work limitations, unless there is a legitimate, non-discriminatory justification for doing so.”

Maybe things will change … albeit slowly.


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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]