Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Pregnancy Discrimination Act: Businesses still dont get it

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued an updated version of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act guide on its website. This new release comes 30 years after the first one was issued. What prompted the update is several Supreme Court rulings in a cases that are apparently being misinterpreted by lower courts. That and the unfortunate finding that pregnancy discrimination complaints are on the rise.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed in 1978 to protect the right of women. It was passed as part of the Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. What this law does is forbid businesses from treating pregnant women differently from other employees on the basis of their prenatal status. The act covers two main objectives:

1. To prevent employers from discriminating against women on the basis of their pregnancy, childbirth or any related conditions tied to them,
2. To ensure that pregnant women are treated as any other employees in the workplace.

What this means is that an employer can't treat a woman differently if it is discovered she is pregnant, which includes taking away her responsibilities on the assumption she won't be able to accomplish them because she is pregnant, and not denying her request for lighter work if she feels she is unable to fulfill her work obligations. So pregnant women are given the power to choose how much work to assume and when they should work. Within reason of course, but a woman should not be demoted or her career prospects threatened just because an employer determines she is either incompetent or incapable.

It is unfortunate that there is still a steady rise in discrimination against pregnant women. Data collected by the EEOC shows a 46 percent increase in the 14 years between 1997 and 2011. A majority of these claims stem from women being fired when they reveal they are pregnant, to unfair treatment once their status is discovered. In 2014 for goodness sake. A lot of it may be willful reaction on the part of employers, other times it could be an honest oversight.

The new guidelines are needed, especially after a 30 year period. However, they are not permanent. Until the Supreme Court reviews these misapplied decisions and Obamacare's official fate is determined with the new ruling in favor of corporations in the Hobby Lobby decision, changes to these guidelines are possible. Lets just hope that the supreme court doesn't take the power of choice out of men's hands and into the corporation's realm.

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