Stricter Guidelines for Pregnancy Discrimination

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According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), there has been a drastic increase in pregnancy-related discrimination complaints.  This issue has garnered increased attention as the Obama administration intensifies its enforcement of anti-discrimination laws.  In order to combat the discrimination, the EEOC has updated its guidelines to ensure that any kind of harassment or discrimination against pregnant workers is considered sexual discrimination.

The EEOC reiterated that pregnant workers cannot be forced to take leave or be reassigned based on their pregnancy. But employers may have to provide light duty for them. “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”, said the director of ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office.

In addition, the EEOC advises employers who have health insurance benefit plans to consider pregnancy-related costs the same as medical costs unrelated to pregnancy. Lactation, for instance, is now covered as a pregnancy-related medical condition and employers must permit a lactating employee the freedom to address it like they would other limiting medical conditions. Women are not the only ones to benefit from these guidelines.  The new provisions state that an employer’s parental leave policy must also be applied to men.

These guidelines, which have not been updated since 1983, demonstrate the EEOC’s recent, and significant, focus on pregnancy in the workplace.

Posted November 26, 2014

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