Federal protections updated for pregnant workers - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Federal protections updated for pregnant workers


What will it take to make sure pregnant workers are treated fairly on the job?

It's a question the federal government is tackling with new guidelines. For 14 years, there has been nearly a 50 percent increase in the number of pregnancy related complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Now the group is updating its guidelines to ensure employers are following the law.  

Every citizen has the right to work. But according to the EEOC, far too often that right is being violated.

"I know of people who find it much easier to just quit their jobs because going back has already put them at a disadvantage. People think that women are not very serious about their work if they choose to have a baby," librarian Autumn Reinhardt-Simpson said.

It's an issue she finds alarming. She's due to have her first child in September.

"A lot of times, what happens is we end up being discriminated against in that we don't get the promotions, we don't get the raises, but we still need that paycheck so we stick around sometimes," she said.

The EEOC calls that harassment. For the first time in three decades, the employment group is updating its guidelines for companies, restricting managers from requiring pregnant workers take leave and suggesting employers may have to offer lighter duties for pregnant women so they can still work.

"There are pregnant women being fired just because they're pregnant, pregnant women who can't lift 20 pounds being told ‘I'm sorry. You can't work here anymore'," the ACLU's Claire Gastanaga said.

She breaks down common violations employers are making.

" ‘Lawyers, we really don't prefer you come to this client meeting or maybe you don't need to go out to do that investigation'. It's anytime the employer kind of substitutes their judgment for the person about what they can and can't do in the workforce," she said.

Now updated guidelines are in place to serve as a wake-up call.

"Those are great. Very, very, very first steps, but they don't go far enough yet," Autumn Reinhardt-Simpson said.

Soon, the High Court will consider a dispute over how the EEOC works to settle job discrimination charges before filing lawsuits against companies.

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