Alex Lopez
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Alex Lopez on August 14, 2014

EEOC Announces Tougher Rules Protecting Pregnant Workers

In a recent press release, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that it’s made an update to guidelines concerning the discrimination of pregnant workers. According to the EEOC, pregnancy discrimination is a term used to describe “anything that involves treating a woman (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.”

While there are likely to be several reasons for the first major update since 1983, it’s likely due to the 46 percent increase in pregnancy-related complaints to the EEOC from 1997 to 2011. Here are some specifics and what you need to know as an employer.


Updates to EEOC Guidelines

In terms of changes to guidelines, there were four main points of emphasis. First, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) now not only pertains to mothers who are currently pregnant, but to those who are post-pregnant and have already given birth. Second, employers may be required to give pregnant employees lighter work during this time.

Third, lactation is now thought of as a pregnancy-related medical condition, so employers must provide flexible scheduling and a designated area that’s private for nursing mothers. Finally, parental leave must be offered to men as well as women if they are the primary caregivers.


What Constitutes Pregnancy Discrimination

If an employee who formerly completed labor-intensive tasks requiring plenty of physical exertion is pregnant, you can’t lawfully force her to continue those same tasks. Doing so could be detrimental to the health and well being of a pre-pregnant mother and child or a mother post-pregnancy.

When it comes to lactation, you could be committing pregnancy discrimination when you don’t offer scheduling around an employee’s needs or fail to offer a private place for her to express milk. This could be an issue if you have limited space, but it’s necessary to take the proper steps to create a private area.

If you previously offered a certain amount of time for pregnancy leave in the past to mothers, it would be unlawful not to offer the same amount of time to fathers. Because the role of caregiver has changed somewhat since the PDA was passed in 1978, the new policies do not allow men to be denied pregnancy leave.


Keeping Your Business Compliant

To prevent any issues, there are a couple of resources you should check out.

  • The EEOC’s section on Pregnancy Discrimination, which provides an overview of the various forms of discrimination.
  • The fact sheet about break time for nursing mothers under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
  • The EEOC’s press release that goes over some recent issues that were addressed.

Due to the fact that pregnancy discrimination has been on the rise since the turn of the century, it’s definitely something to take seriously. Taking the time to educate yourself on this topic and recent updates should be beneficial to your business and to pregnant employees. If you haven’t done so already, you may want to create some workplace policies around this topic to protect your business even further.



Photo Source: flickr