The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, recently announced that it is working to "aggressively review" claims of discrimination against pregnant women and workers with care giving responsibilities.
The EEOC's overall mission is to ensure employers do not discriminate against employees. The federal agency further supported their focus on claims relating to pregnancy with an official statement noting that the agency was "committed to ensuring that job applicants and employees are not subject to unlawful discrimination on account of pregnancy or because of their efforts to balance work and family responsibilities."
The announcement came shortly after the EEOC entered two large settlement agreements against employers alleged of pregnancy discrimination. A medical staffing company based in Milwaukee, WI, agreed to pay $148,000 in settlement and an agricultural product and food ingredient supplier based in California settled for $140,000.
Impact on Pregnant Workers
Pregnant employees are protected against discriminatory practices by both state and federal laws. Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act it is illegal to refuse to hire, promote or fire an employee based solely on the fact that she is pregnant.
Employers are also required to provide pregnant employees with the same benefits as other workers. This includes:
- Health insurance
- Retirement plans
- Disability benefits
If the pregnancy results in the inability to complete job duties the woman must be treated the same way other employees with a medical condition are treated. This can mean that the employer will need to modify tasks, provide alternative assignments or allow for disability leave.
If an employer violates this law legal remedies are available. This can result in reinstatement to the position held prior to discrimination, back pay and other forms of compensation.