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EEOC update provides protection from pregnancy discrimination

While the Civil Rights Act of 1964 granted equal rights for people despite their gender or race, discrimination persists in the work place in Michigan and elsewhere. Women, in particular, may face hurdles during their course of employment that men do not, such as becoming pregnant. This simple act of starting or continuing a family can garner employment problems or even discrimination, but new federal guidelines seek to combat that.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had not updated their guidelines concerning pregnancy discrimination in the workplace in over 30 years. While not exactly clear with the prior guidelines, the updated ones expressly state that discriminating against a female worker who is pregnant constitutes sex discrimination, which is illegal. One expert on the subject says that the changes are simply common sense and will be easy for employers to implement.

For instance, employers cannot force a pregnant employee to take leave, and instead may have to provide them with light duty. Aside from affording pregnant women additional protection in the workplace, they will also have more legal power to seek compensation should they suffer from discrimination based upon whether or not they happen to be pregnant at the time. Additionally, the guidelines benefit more than just women. Parental leave must be similarly afforded to both women and men.

The new guidelines related to pregnancy discrimination in the workplace appear to be much-needed, as between the years of 1997 and 2011 the EEOC noted that complaints related to such discrimination increased by 46 percent. Michigan women who have suffered pregnancy related discrimination and, similarly, men who have faced employment problems related to parental leave may be able to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. Doing so can grant the victim the legal right to pursue a lawsuit, while in other situations the EEOC may request that the employee and the employer reach a settlement through mediation.

Source: 9and10news.com, "New guidelines could help many pregnant workers", Tom Raum, July 16, 2014

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