Improved protections for workers who are pregnant

Frank S. Clowney III

Women in California may have concerns about how pregnancies will affect their careers. Relevant policies, last updated in 1982, have received a new update by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The latest changes are designed to clarify that it is illegal to harass or discriminate against an employee for pregnancy-related issues. This type of harassment is classified as sex discrimination.

Both expectant mothers and fathers benefit from these changes due to the fact that the guidelines provide for the same terms to be applied to similarly situated men and women. Employers may not discriminate against those who are pregnant through forced leave time. Additionally, issues such as lactation and the need for light duty have been addressed. Statistics indicate that between 1997 and 2011, complaints about pregnancy-related employment issues have increased by 46 percent. In some cases, employers have discharged pregnant women for alleged problems in performance. In other cases, supervisors have increased workloads for such women, resulting in inabilities to perform appropriately.

Representatives of the EEOC indicate that overt discrimination based on pregnancy continues to be a serious concern. Additionally, the commission notes subtle discriminatory practices that are affecting employees today. The commission is also facing the Supreme Court’s consideration of a case that identifies the duty of the EEOC to endeavor to settle discrimination charges in the workplace prior to filing lawsuits against employers alleged to be violating worker rights.

While the EEOC may help in resolving workplace issues involving pregnant workers, it may be beneficial for an individual affected by wrongful termination or another illegal action to discuss concerns with an employment lawyer. The lawyer might provide the information needed to determine whether legal action is warranted based on the facts of the case.

Source: WXOW, “Agency toughens protections for pregnant workers”, Tom Raum, July 15, 2014