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Understanding the new EEOC pregnancy discrimination guidance

We write frequently about the ways in which relatively subtle forms of illegal discrimination continue to permeate the American workplace. In addition to race discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination and sexual harassment, a staggering number of American workers continue to experience the negative effects of pregnancy discrimination. In response to this disturbing trend, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has released guidance on this issue that is arguably long-overdue.

It has been more than 30 years since the EEOC last issued employer-related guidance on this critically important workers’ rights issue. Perhaps the agency hoped that over time this form of discrimination would fade into history, but alas it has not. According to The New York Times, the EEOC felt compelled to issue updated guidance in response to the spike in complaints it has received in regards to this kind of treatment.

The new “EEOC Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues” is not a set of laws. Rather, this guidance provides clarification and emphasis on certain areas of existing discrimination law that employers may either find ambiguous or claim to find ambiguous. Much of the “new” guidance simply highlights important legal principles including the fact that employers cannot take adverse action against an employee if pregnancy is a motivating factor in that decision.

This guidance should be unnecessary, as employers should understand by now that pregnancy discrimination is illegal and should behave accordingly. However, it seems that some employers are greatly in need of a reminder and the new EEOC guidance provides just that.

Source: Findlaw Law & Daily Life, “EEOC's New Pregnancy-Discrimination Guide: What Moms Need to Know,” Daniel Taylor, July 17, 2014

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