Do Pregnant Women Deserve Better Workplace Protection?

Los Angeles Employment Attorneys Consider New EEOC Decision

Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978 to combat discrimination against working women who are expecting a child and/or wish to start a family in the future. The Act applied only to employers with 15 or more employees, and prohibits discrimination “on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.”

Supreme Court to Decide Appeal of Pregnancy Discrimination Act

New studies from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reveal a 46 percent increase in pregnancy-related complaints from 1997 to 2011. Interpretations of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act have varied widely, leading to complaints and lawsuits. The Supreme Court, for instance, recently agreed to hear a case of a UPS employee who was forced to take an unpaid leave of absence after informing the company she was pregnant in Peggy Young v. United Parcel Service. The woman, a UPS driver, had requested a different work assignment similar to those given to colleagues with medical conditions such as high blood pressure.

Instead, the plaintiff says, she was informed that her new condition was an “off-work incident,” and that the company did not make allowances for such events. The lower courts sided with UPS; the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in the case near the end of 2014.

Stricter Rules for Employers to Protect Pregnant Women and Fathers

For the first time in almost 30 years, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has revised its rules regarding pregnancy discrimination, stating clearly that female employees who might get pregnant in the future—or have been pregnant in the past—cannot be discriminated against.

The EEOC simplified many of its policies, including one clarifying when businesses may have to provide light duty to pregnant personnel, and another that bans companies from forcing a pregnant employee to take leave in cases when she is healthy enough to continue working.

The new rules also state that lactation is a pregnancy-related medical condition and accordingly, will be afforded all the protections of the law, including requirements for schedule flexibility and a private place to express milk.

The Commission also stated that parental leave must be granted to both men and women equally.

“Pregnancy is not a justification for excluding women from jobs that they are qualified to perform,” said EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien. “And it cannot be a basis for…treating women less favorably than co-workers similar in their ability or inability to work.”

While there has been progress, far too many employers still engage in pregnancy discrimination. Many claim to be uncertain about the requirements of the law. The EEOC hopes to deliver more clarity with these rule amendments.

Los Angeles Business Attorneys with Years of Experience Here to Help You

At Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob, we assist California businesses in ensuring their employment practices are in accordance with state and federal laws. We also help employees with sexual harassment claims, discrimination claims, or any other employment-related claims in Southern California. Call our Los Angeles employment law attorneys today at (310) 273-3180.