EEOC Updates Rules Protecting Pregnant Workers For First Time In 30 Years

It’s been three decades since the last time the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission adjusted its rules protecting women in the workplace who are pregnant, might get pregnant in the future or have ever been pregnant in the past. This week the EEOC released updated rules against pregnancy discrimination, saying it’s against the law.

Within the announced updates are clarifications for several policies, including:

• The Pregnancy Discrimination Act protects not only women who are pregnant right now, but any discrimination based on past pregnancies, as well as whether a woman might get pregnant in the future.

• Lactation is a covered pregnancy-related medical condition, which means it has all the protections under the law as other conditions. That includes requirements for schedule flexibility and a private place to express milk, notes NPR News.

• Rules regarding when employers have to provide light duty for pregnant workers

• Employers who allow parental leave must provide it to both men and women equally, so they can’t refuse a man paternity leave and must provide an equal amount of time to new fathers as new mothers.

These clarifications are designed to make interpretations of the law more consistent, as employers often enforce it more stringently in some cases, and less so in others. That leads to complaints and lawsuits.

“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 similar in their ability or inability to work,” EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien said. “Despite much progress, we continue to see a significant number of charges alleging pregnancy discrimination, and our investigations have revealed the persistence of overt pregnancy discrimination, as well as the emergence of more subtle discriminatory practices.”