Why New Supreme Court Ruling Opens Door for Pregnant Women

by | 27 Jun, 2017

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In 2008, Samantha Elauf, a Muslim woman, sued the retailer Abercrombie & Fitch for discrimination after the store refused to hire her because her hijab clashed with the store’s dress code. On June 1, the Supreme Court sided in an 8-1 decision with Elauf. According to the Boston Business Journal, the Court declared that “if an employer can implicitly see that a factor driven by faith would preclude an applicant from the job, the employer has to try to offer a ‘reasonable accommodation’.” This “reasonable accommodation” falls under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It also is included in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

What does this mean?

Employers must clearly outline the essential functions of a job and then ask the candidate if they can complete them. If the job applicant says no, then the employer must contemplate if a “reasonable accommodation” is possible for the job. Pregnancy is deemed a disability by the Americans with Disabilities act, so employers must offer “reasonable accommodation” to pregnant women if possible. For example, if a pregnant woman, whose doctor recommends that she not work with tuna, is applying to Subway and she states that she cannot work with tuna, the shop must ask itself if it can make reasonable accommodations. Could she work the cash register or bake bread? Or must every employee must be required to make tuna sandwiches?

“Reasonable accommodation” of course must be taken on a case by case basis. Reasonably accommodating a candidate doesn’t necessarily mean spending more money. You’re better off trying to be reasonable and do the best you can to accommodate people than being a stickler for how things are usually done.

Have questions about how the provisions of the American Disabilities Act affect you? Click here to learn more.

Tom DiSilva
Tom DiSilva has been providing professional human resource services for over 30 years. As the CEO of Navigate PEO, he actively partners with organizations of all sizes in the Greater New England area and across the country to help their businesses grow. He has expertise in HR and Labor Management, offering guidance and support for key areas of business such as negotiations, operations management, employee coaching, and employee benefits design. He is an active member of The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), The National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO), Professional Association of Co-Employers (PACE), and The American Payroll Association (APA). He is deeply committed to giving back to the community both personally and through Navigate Cares, which provides support for several nonprofit organizations such as the USO, The Boys & Girls Club, and the 3Point Foundation.

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Disclaimer: this article does not represent expert advice and is provided for informational purposes. Please get in touch if you would like expert HR advice.