As our employment law attorneys have repeatedly blogged about, the definition of “disability” greatly expanded beyond that previously allowed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) when President Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAA) on September 25, 2008. But, does morning sickness qualify?
Let’s take a look at the facts alleged in EEOC v. Engineering Documentation Systems, Inc. In this case, after an EDSI administrative assistant at the Hawthorne Army Depot informed the company that she was pregnant, the employer denied the pregnant employee’s repeated requests to move her office closer to the restroom to accommodate severe nausea and vomiting, i.e. what is commonly known as morning sickness. With the requested accommodation, the administrative assistant fell on at least two occasions while trying to race down two sets of steep stairs to reach the restroom. As such, it is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission‘s position that the nausea associated with pregnancy can be considered a disability under the ADA and that employers must evaluate the situation and provide reasonable accommodations.
The claims of unlawful discrimination and employment law violations did not stop there. After the pregnant employee then took medical leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), the complaint asserts that the employer prevented her return to work by changing her job description so as to now require that she be certified to carry live ammunition and explosives as a precondition for her return to work. There was also evidence that the manager also allegedly made derogatory remarks about her pregnancy, and treated males who had short term medical conditions more favorably. This brings into play gender discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Then, to top it all off, when the unlawful treatment was contested, the employer fired the pregnant employee – which makes a perfect retaliation claim under Title VII.
The outcome? EDSI agreed to pay $70,000 and other non-financial considerations to resolve the claims.
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