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EEOC renews focus on pregnancy discrimination

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has announced a crackdown on pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. The plan was revealed recently and then followed by the filing of four pregnancy discrimination claims and the settlement of a fifth claim.

Pregnancy discrimination can be very difficult to combat, with many employers giving bogus reasons for firing expectant or new mothers. Still, the increased pursuit of these types of lawsuits will hopefully send a message to employers that pregnancy discrimination will not be tolerated.

One of the cases that was most recently filed deals with an unusual type of discrimination, in which employees are required to inform their employer immediately upon learning that they are pregnant. The juvenile detention center also requires employees to provide a doctor's note certifying that she is healthy enough to continue to work, even in situations where the employee has no health concerns and shows no signs that she may not be able to perform her job duties. The EEOC is pursuing an injunction against the center to prevent it from enforcing this policy.

"Too many employers continue to penalize their female work force because of pregnancy," said a district director with the EEOC, referring to one of the four recently filed cases. "This lawsuit sends the message that employers need to hear -- stop discriminating against pregnant employees."

In addition to this effort by the EEOC, Congress is also considering a bill that would provide explicit protection for workers in the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which provides for the same reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees as are afforded to those with a disability.

Source: Huffington Post, "Pregnancy Discrimination In The Workplace Target Of New EEOC Crackdown," Christina Wilkie, Sept. 29, 2012.

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