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Updated guidelines protect pregnant employees

Pregnant employees in California may appreciate the fact that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has recently updated workplace discrimination guidelines that may affect them. The previous guidelines were in place for more than 30 years, last updated in 1983, and the commission noted that subtle workplace discrimination practices have developed. According to the new guidelines, discriminatory practices based on an employee's pregnancy constitutes sex discrimination, an illegal practice.

Representatives of the EEOC indicate that both overt and subtle discrimination continues to be a significant problem for pregnant individuals in the workplace. However, the issue has garnered increasing attention. Practices such as forcing those who are pregnant to take leave are being prohibited. Lactation has been identified as a medical condition related to pregnancy. Paternal leave guidelines ensure that fathers are entitled to be treated on the same terms as mothers. The revamping of the guidelines also deals with connections between pregnancy and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Further, discrimination based on pregnancy issues that may arise or that have occurred in the past or present are considered illegal.

While the updated guidelines have received favorable responses from entities such as the ACLU, the decision was not unanimous on the part of those on the EEOC. Two commissioners expressed concern that the decisions moved beyond the commission's authority. Additionally, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce criticized the agency's move.

Individuals dealing with possible workplace discrimination due to pregnancy may be unsure of the new guidelines and the best approach to filing possible complaints. A lawyer with experience in employment law may be able to evaluate the situation to discern whether discriminatory practices have been used. Additionally, a lawyer may recommend measures for documenting such issues and resolving concerns. In some cases, litigation may be considered to address unfair workplace actions.

Source: FOX Business, "Federal employment unit issues first new guidelines to protect pregnant workers in 30 years", July 15, 2014

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