On July 14, 2014, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released their new EEOC Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues, which included contraception and abortion.
According to the EEOC, this is the first comprehensive update of the Commission’s guidance on the subject of discrimination against pregnant workers since the 1983 publication of a Compliance Manual chapter on the subject. This guidance supersedes that document and incorporates significant developments in the law during the past 30 years.
In their press release the EEOC states that in addition to addressing the requirements of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), the guidance discusses the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as amended in 2008, to individuals who have pregnancy-related disabilities.
“Pregnancy is not a justification for excluding women from jobs that they are qualified to perform, and it cannot be a basis for denying employment or treating women less favorably than co-workers similar in their ability or inability to work,” said EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien. “Despite much progress, we continue to see a significant number of charges alleging pregnancy discrimination, and our investigations have revealed the persistence of overt pregnancy discrimination, as well as the emergence of more subtle discriminatory practices. This guidance will aid employers, job seekers, and workers in complying with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Americans with Disabilities Act, and thus advance EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan priority of addressing the emerging issue of the interaction between these two anti-discrimination statutes.”
Much of the analysis in the enforcement guidance is an update of longstanding EEOC policy. The guidance sets out the fundamental Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) requirements that an employer may not discriminate against an employee on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; and that women affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions must be treated the same as other persons similar in their ability or inability to work.
But the government department which can go after employers also details their rules on contraception in section D entitled: Discrimination Based on Use of Contraception:
Depending on the specific circumstances, employment decisions based on a female employee’s use of contraceptives may constitute unlawful discrimination based on gender and/or pregnancy. Contraception is a means by which a woman can control her capacity to become pregnant, and, therefore, Title VII’s prohibition of discrimination based on potential pregnancy necessarily includes a prohibition on discrimination related to a woman’s use of contraceptives.38 For example, an employer could not discharge a female employee from her job because she uses contraceptives.39
Employers can violate Title VII by providing health insurance that excludes coverage of prescription contraceptives, whether the contraceptives are prescribed for birth control or for medical purposes.40 Because prescription contraceptives are available only for women, a health insurance plan facially discriminates against women on the basis of gender if it excludes prescription contraception but otherwise provides comprehensive coverage.41 To comply with Title VII, an employer’s health insurance plan must cover prescription contraceptives on the same basis as prescription drugs, devices, and services that are used to prevent the occurrence of medical conditions other than pregnancy.42 For example, if an employer’s health insurance plan covers preventive care for medical conditions other than pregnancy, such as vaccinations, physical examinations, prescription drugs that prevent high blood pressure or to lower cholesterol levels, and/or preventive dental care, then prescription contraceptives also must be covered..
In addition to the RULES- I found the verbiage in the footnotes very interesting as well:
37 See, e.g., Commission Decision on Coverage of Contraception (Dec. 14, 2000) (because prescription contraceptives are available only for women, employer’s explicit refusal to offer insurance coverage for them is, by definition, a sex-based exclusion), available at http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/decision-contraception.html (last visited May 5, 2014).
38. What is written in the footnotes is even more eye opening: 38 Id.; see also Cooley v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 281 F. Supp. 2d 979, 984 (E.D. Mo. 2003) (“[A]s only women have the potential to become pregnant, denying a prescription medication that allows women to control their reproductive capacity is necessarily a sex-based exclusion.”); Erickson v. Bartell Drug Co., 141 F. Supp. 2d 1266, 1271-72 (W.D. Wash. 2001) (exclusion of prescription contraceptives from employer’s generally comprehensive prescription drug plan violated PDA). The Eighth Circuit’s assertion in In re Union Pac. R.R. Employment Practices Litig., 479 F.3d 936, 942 (2007), that contraception is not “related to pregnancy” because “contraception is a treatment that is only indicated prior to pregnancy” is not persuasive because it is contrary to the Johnson Controls holding that the PDA applies to potential pregnancy.
39. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) provides for religious exemption from a federal law, even if the law is of general applicability and neutral toward religion, if it substantially burdens a religious practice and the government is unable to show that its application would further a compelling government interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering the interest. 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1. In a case decided in June 2014, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., et al., — S. Ct. —, 82 U.S.L.W. 4636 (U.S. June 30, 2014) (Nos. 13-354 and 13-356), the Supreme Court ruled that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate violated the RFRA as applied to closely held family for-profit corporations whose owners had religious objections to providing certain types of contraceptives. The Supreme Court did not reach the question whether owners of such businesses can assert that the contraceptive mandate violates their rights under the Constitution’s Free Exercise Clause. This enforcement guidance explains Title VII’s prohibition of pregnancy discrimination; it does not address whether certain employers might be exempt from Title VII’s requirements under the First Amendment or the RFRA.
40. See, e.g., Commission Decision on Coverage of Contraception, supra note 37; see also Section 2713(a)(4) of the Public Health Service Act, as amended by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, PL 111-148, 124 Stat. 119 (2010) (requiring that non-grandfathered group or individual insurance coverage provide benefits for women’s preventive health services without cost sharing). On August 1, 2011, the Health Resources and Services Administration released guidelines requiring that contraceptive services be included as women’s preventive health services. These requirements became effective for most new and renewed health plans in August 2012. 26 C.F.R. § 54.9815-2713T(b)(1); 29 C.F.R. § 2590.715-2713(b)(1); 45 C.F.R. § 147.130(b)(1) (plans and insurers must cover a newly recommended preventive service starting with the first plan year that begins on or after the date that is one year after the date on which the new recommendation is issued). The Departments of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services issued regulations clarifying the criteria for the religious employer exemption from contraceptive coverage, accommodations with respect to the contraceptive coverage requirement for group health plans established or maintained by eligible organizations (and group health insurance coverage provided in connection with such plans), and student health insurance coverage arranged by eligible organizations that are institutions of higher education. Coverage of Certain Preventive Services Under the Affordable Care Act, 78 Fed. Reg. 39869 (July 2, 2013) (to be codified at 26 C.F.R. Part 54; 29 C.F.R. Parts 2510 and 2590; 45 C.F.R. Parts 147 and 1560). But see supra note 39.
41 See Commission Decision on Coverage of Contraception, supra note 37; Erickson, 141 F. Supp. 2d at 1272 (“In light of the fact that prescription contraceptives are used only by women, [defendant’s] choice to exclude that particular benefit from its generally applicable benefit plan is discriminatory.”).
42 See supra note 37. The Commission disagrees with the conclusion in In re Union Pac. R.R. Employment Practices Litig., 479 F.3d 936 (8th Cir. 2007), that contraception is gender-neutral because it applies to both men and women. Id. at 942. The court distinguished the EEOC’s decision on coverage of contraception by noting that the Commission decision involved a health insurance policy that denied coverage of prescription contraception but included coverage of vasectomies and tubal ligations while the employer in Union Pacific excluded all contraception for women and men, both prescription and surgical, when used solely for contraception and not for other medical purposes. However, the EEOC’s decision was not based on the fact that the plan at issue covered vasectomies and tubal ligations. Instead, the Commission reasoned that excluding prescription contraception while providing benefits for drugs and devices used to prevent other medical conditions is a sex-based exclusion because prescription contraceptives are available only for women. See also Union Pacific, 479 F.3d at 948-49 (Bye, J., dissenting) (contraception is “gender-specific, female issue because of the adverse health consequences of an unplanned pregnancy”; therefore, proper comparison is between preventive health coverage provided to each gender).
As for the EEOC’s guidelines on Pregnant women and Abortion – those read:
Title VII protects women from being fired for having an abortion or contemplating having an abortion. However, Title VII makes clear that an employer that offers health insurance is not required to pay for coverage of abortion except where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term or medical complications have arisen from an abortion. The statute also makes clear that, although not required to do so, an employer is permitted to provide health insurance coverage for abortion. Title VII would similarly prohibit adverse employment actions against an employee based on her decision not to have an abortion. For example, it would be unlawful for a manager to pressure an employee to have an abortion, or not to have an abortion, in order to retain her job, get better assignments, or stay on a path for advancement.61
b. Insurance Coverage of Abortion
The PDA [THE PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION ACT] makes clear that if an employer provides health insurance benefits, it is not required to pay for health insurance coverage of abortion except where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term. If complications arise during the course of an abortion, the health insurance plan is required to pay the costs attributable to those complications.
The statute also makes clear that an employer is not precluded from providing abortion benefits directly or through a collective bargaining agreement. If an employer decides to cover the costs of abortion, it must do so in the same manner and to the same degree as it covers other medical conditions.
One thing is puzzling- I have not seen where the EEOC actually defines when a “pregnancy” begins. I have not fully read through it all. If my readers can locate this, please post a comment !
But – given the way this administration has used many of their “agencies” to go after those who do not politically agree with them, are these “guidelines” the latest tool for the pro-abortion Obama administration to go after businesses who do not comply? We shall soon see…..