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Updated guidelines clarify some ambiguities of pregnancy discrimination

A federal agency has provided some new clarifications in regards to pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.

Pregnancy can be exciting, scary and stressful all at once. But what it should never be is detrimental to your career.

Unfortunately, some employers only see the costs of an employee’s pregnancy. Expecting parents are entitled to a certain amount of leave, and pregnancy can generate health care costs for an employer. Some employers may look for an excuse to terminate an employee who is pregnant or who is known to be preparing for pregnancy, or may make working conditions unpleasant in a bid to get the employee to quit.

Both federal and Minnesota law protect individuals from pregnancy-related employment discrimination. Significantly, this August, for the first time in more than three decades, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released updates to its pregnancy discrimination guidelines, clarifying existing protections and going into depth about interrelated pregnancy discrimination laws.

EEOC explains long reach of antidiscrimination laws

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was first enacted by Congress in 1978. The PDA clarified that discrimination in employment based on childbirth, pregnancy or related medical issues is a type of sex discrimination, which is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The most obvious and blatant forms of pregnancy discrimination may not require much explanation. Clearly, firing or demoting a pregnant woman because of her pregnancy would be prohibited. But, discrimination is often more subtle than that. The recently released EEOC clarifications take things a step further. For instance, the new clarifications explain that it is not only discrimination based on a current pregnancy that is prohibited, but also discrimination based on past pregnancies or potential pregnancies.

The clarifications also explain how pregnancy discrimination issues can intersect the Americans with Disabilities Act. Pregnancy itself is not a disability under the ADA. However, certain pregnancy-related conditions, such as gestational diabetes or sciatica can become a disabling impairment.

Even if a pregnancy-related medical condition does not rise to the level of an ADA disability, the recent EEOC guidance makes it clear that employers still may have to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees. For instance, a pregnant worker might have to be temporarily moved to a light duty position.

One final area of emphasis worth noting in the new EEOC guidelines is that parental leave after a child is born must be provided to both men and women equally. Parental leave and pregnancy-related medical leave are two separate things. While pregnancy-related discrimination is mostly thought of as an issue for women, it can occasionally affect a man who has a partner expecting a child.

An employment law attorney can help address pregnancy discrimination

While you probably understand that discrimination based on pregnancy is illegal, antidiscrimination laws can be very complex. This brief overview of some of the new guidance concerning pregnancy discrimination may be helpful to an extent, but it is likely not enough to give you a full understanding of whether or not you have been discriminated against.

Were you denied time off that you think you should have been able to take? Have your work duties changed absent your consent? Are you being treated differently from your coworkers? Trust your instincts. If it feels like something is unfair about how your employer is handling news of your pregnancy, you may have a discrimination claim.

If you believe you might be facing pregnancy-related discrimination, an employment law attorney can help flesh out your claim and will pursue appropriate legal remedies on your behalf. Contact an employment law attorney today to learn more about legal solutions to pregnancy discrimination.

Keywords: pregnancy discrimination, employment law