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New government guidelines seek to curb pregnancy discrimination

Indiana employees may be interested in changes to government guidelines dealing with employer discrimination against pregnant women. The new guidelines make clear the government's position that this type of discrimination is equivalent to others that have been deemed illegal and should be treated as such.

The chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says that the commission has been seeing an increasing number of both subtle and overt instances of workplace discrimination against pregnant women. Statistics provided by the EEOC show that in the 14 years from 1997 to 2011, instances of discrimination complaints related to pregnancy increased by 46 percent.

The Commission has rewritten guidelines that have not been updated since 1983. On July 14, a 3-2 vote passed the revision, which states that any pregnancy-related discrimination is illegal. This type of discrimination also extends to men who are to be treated in the same manner as women when issues related to pregnancy and childbirth are involved. The guidelines contain a prohibition of forced leave for pregnant workers as well as a recommendation of light duty assignments for those who cannot perform their normal work tasks while pregnant.

One law professor agreed with the changes, noting that many employers deny accommodations to pregnant employees while giving the same accommodations to others. The two commissioners who voted against the change stated, however, that they believe that this move goes beyond the EEOC's authority.

When an employee is discriminated against at the workplace, whether due to pregnancy, age, race or sex discrimination, he or she may choose to bring an administrative or legal action against the employer. An attorney could help by evaluating the employee's case and uncovering any evidence of the alleged discrimination. The employee might then be entitled to compensation, including any lost pay and benefits.

Source: Indiana Gazette, "Agency toughens protections for pregnant employees", Tom Raum, July 16, 2014

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