The government has updated 30-year-old guidelines, citing “the persistence of overt pregnancy discrimination, as well as the emergence of more subtle discriminatory practices.”
The new guidelines from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission make clear any form of workplace discrimination or harassment against pregnant workers by employers is a form of sex discrimination and illegal.
They prohibit employers from forcing pregnant workers to take leave and acknowledge “employers may have to provide light duty for pregnant workers.” After childbirth, lactation is now covered as a pregnancy-related medical condition.
It’s not just women who will benefit.
The guidelines say when it comes to parental leave, “similarly situated” men and women must be treated on the same terms.
The updated guidelines come two weeks after the Supreme Court agreed to take under consideration a dispute over the Commission’s duty to try to settle charges of job discrimination before filing lawsuits against employers.
The issue has gained increasing attention and vexed business groups, as the Obama administration ratchets up its enforcement of the nation’s anti-discrimination laws.
“Despite much progress, we continue to see a significant number of charges alleging pregnancy discrimination, and our investigations have revealed the persistence of overt pregnancy discrimination, as well as the emergence of more subtle discriminatory practices,” EEOC Chairwoman Jacqueline A. Berrien said in a statement.
The latest commission data showed a 46 percent increase in pregnancy-related complaints to the EEOC from 1997 to 2011.
The guidelines were last updated in 1983.