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Federal Employment Protection During Pregnancy

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, provides federal protections for women's choices related to pregnancy, if she works for an employer with more than 15 employees. The protections are against discrimination and harassment, and there are further protections regarding exposure to hazardous working environments during pregnancy.

The PDA, or Pregnancy Discrimination Act, provides for protection against negative employment actions related to pregnancy, intent to get pregnant, and abortion. This means hiring decisions, firing, promotion or demotion decisions or other job actions cannot be made based on these reproductive health issues.

Workplaces must make sure the environment is safe for pregnant women, and these safety precautions include hazardous chemicals, noise, radiation, and heat/cold. However, an employer cannot remove a pregnant women from employment for these safety reasons, but must, if able, provide a different job or a different work environment. The worker cannot be placed on leave for the extent of the pregnancy for these reasons. An employer is expected to make reasonable accommodations.

If the pregnancy is causing difficulty doing the job, employers can offer reasonable workplace accommodations such as sitting rather than standing, breaks, altered work schedules, and work from home options. These changes in the work environment much be accommodations, rather than demotions, and be time-limited. In all instances, the change must not place an undue burden on an employer.

If an employee cannot work during the pregnancy, and paid leave is available, then that leave is allowed, and further unpaid leave can be a workplace accommodation. How the employer uses workplace accommodations for other employees needing assistance or altered work environments, such as those protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, can be used to also offer similar to pregnant employees.

If a pregnant woman is experiencing harassment in the work environment, the employer has a responsibility to stop the harassment. Harassment alone cannot be used as a need for an accommodation in the workplace.

If an employee feels that she has been discriminated against due to pregnancy or reproductive health issues, she can speak first to HR or directly to the EEOC. Employers are prohibited from retaliation against employees for filing an EEOC complaint. The burden of proof rests with the person filing the complaint.

For more information about employment law, please contact us.



EEOC Files Disability, Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit against South Carolina Nursing Home

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against a South Carolina nursing home on behalf of a former employee.

According to the lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the nursing home hired the woman as a full-time nurse in 2002. At the time that it hired the nose, it was aware that she suffered from a condition called paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia. This is a cardiac condition that is characterized by severe fatigue, nausea, accelerated heartbeat and even blackouts. The condition is controlled by medication.

In 2012, the woman found out that she was pregnant, and doctors advised her to stop taking the medication for her condition, because of the adverse effect that it could have on her pregnancy. The woman’s symptoms intensified as a result, and she took three days off work to take rest and recover from the symptoms. Upon her return to work, she was fired from her position.

The Equal Employment Commission in its lawsuit alleges that the employer failed to provide the woman reasonable accommodations for her pregnancy, and fired her because of her disability. The lawsuit is seeking a number of damages, including compensation and punitive damages in addition to back pay.

The law against all types of discrimination including disability discrimination is very stringent. If you have been in a position where you have faced discriminatory practices or harassment in the workplace, because of a medical condition that impairs your ability to function, talk to a California employment lawyer about your legal options.



Feds Update Pregnancy Discrimination Guidelines

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

For the first time in three decades, the federal administration has updated its guidelines to prevent workplace pregnancy discrimination. The new guidelines will go a long way in helping protect pregnant workers from discrimination.

The rules were adopted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and now hold that workplace discrimination or harassment against pregnant employees is a form of illegal sex harassment. The guidelines clearly establish that such harassment is illegal, and that there has been an increase in overt pregnancy discrimination, as well as more subtle discrimination against pregnant employees over the past few years. For the first time, the guidelines clearly establish how the Americans with Disabilities Act will apply to pregnant employees. The guidelines also establish that discrimination against female employees, based on past pregnancies or potential future pregnancies is also illegal under the law.

The last time the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updated its guidelines related to pregnancy discrimination was back in 1983. These new guidelines are sorely needed. There has been an upswing in the number of employees who have been fired, denied jobs, and promotion opportunities all because they were pregnant, or could possibly get pregnant in the future.

Those kinds of discriminatory practices are now clearly illegal under the law, and this will have a major impact on employment lawsuits that are based on pregnancy discrimination in California. Under the new guidelines, employers are specifically prohibited from forcing pregnant employees to take leave, and are also guided to provide light work for pregnant workers. Lactation is now covered as a pregnancy-related medical condition after childbirth. The guidelines also include paternal leave under the same umbrella, and say that when it comes to matters involving parental leave, males and females must be treated similarly.



Pregnancy-Related Bias Widespread in the Workplace

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

In 2014, you wouldn't expect a woman who decides to have a baby to find that her condition has jeopardized her work and promotion potential. However, according to a new study that was released recently, pregnancy-related job discrimination does not just exist in American industry, but is also fairly widespread.

The analysis was based on a review of 75 cases involving women who had filed pregnancy-related discrimination complaints against their employers with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission from 1986 to 2003. The researchers found that 40% of gender-based workplace discrimination complaints involved pregnant women. In 30% of those cases, the employer cited poor performance by the pregnant employee as the reason for the discrimination. In 10% of the findings, the employers stated that the reason for the firing was based on “business needs, profit and efficiency.”

Very often, employers seem to get away with using the “efficiency” and “business performance” ruse, when they want to fire a pregnant worker. The industry has found it very convenient to perpetrate a stereotype that pregnant women are unreliable, do not take their job seriously, and may require additional accommodations in the workplace that are impractical. Some employers believe that pregnant mothers are likely to be distracted not just currently, but also in the future.

Not all pregnant women in the workplace realize that their rights are protected by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act which prohibits employers from terminating an employee just because she's pregnant. However, the problem is that these days, employers don't fire women outright because they are pregnant. It is a slow process that usually consists of giving the woman poor performance grades, spotlighting workplace inefficiency, and using other methods to ease her out from the job.




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