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EEOC Panelists Discuss Workplace Pregnancy Discrimination

March 15, 2012

As Vincent Howard has written in a previous Anaheim labor and employment lawyer blog, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the commission in charge of enforcing the federal laws prohibiting discrimination in the workplace based on an individual's sex (including pregnancy), race, religion, color, national origin, disability or age. Last month the commission discussed the significant problem of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace with a panel of experts in a public EEOC meeting.

The EEOC panelists reported that despite the passing of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) in 1978, many women still experience employment prejudice, demotions and job loss when they become pregnant-- depriving woman of the necessary means to support their families. Congress passed the PDA as an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, in order to protect pregnant women in the workplace from discrimination based on hiring, compensation, employment opportunities, firing, job promotions, layoffs, or any other terms or conditions of employment.

According to the National Women's Law Center, the past forty years have produced a major increase of women who choose to work through all stages of pregnancy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that women currently make up 47% of the U.S. workforce, and are now either the primary or co-primary family income providers in nearly two-thirds of families across the country, making it essential that women do not lose their jobs and employment due to pregnancy or childbirth, or due to primary caregiving responsibilities to elders. The experts also discussed discrimination against male and female workers with caregiving responsibilities, as this workplace harassment and discrimination also continues to be a serious problem across the country.

This meeting reportedly followed up on commission meetings from 2007, after the EEOC issued a document explaining the circumstances under which workers with caregiving responsibilities might experience discrimination based on sex, disability or other specific characteristics that are protected by federal employment discrimination laws. In 2009 the EEOC released another document discussing the best possible practices that employers can use in order to diminish employment law violations like discrimination against caregivers, and to remove barriers for equal employment opportunity.

The panelists reportedly described many examples to the EEOC about different kinds of discrimination that pregnant workers and workers with caregiving responsibilities might experience, including hostility and harassment in response to pregnancy, decreased work hours, job loss or forced and unpaid leave. Other discrimination examples included male caregivers who were penalized for requesting leave--based on the gender stereotypes that caregiving should be performed by women, and not men.

Other experts pointed out that low-wage workers are distinctly affected by discrimination against pregnancy or caregiving, as these jobs are more likely to be low wage or part-time, requiring rigid work schedules with little or no flexibility, or on the opposite end of the spectrum, could require schedules that are completely unpredictable, making planning for caregiving much more of a difficult endeavor.

As Vincent Howard has previously stated, employers should not make employment decisions based on stereotypes and presumptions about the competence and commitment of pregnant workers, or workers with caregiving responsibilities. The EEOC continues in its commitment to tirelessly enforce the anti-discrimination laws as they apply to both pregnant women and male or female caregivers.

In Orange County, California and throughout Southern California, contact Vincent Howard at Howard Law, PC today.

Unlawful Discrimination Based on Pregnancy and Caregiving Responsibilities Widespread Problem, Panelists Tell EEOC, The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Press Release, February 15, 2012

Related Web Resources:

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, (EEOC)

Facts About Pregnancy Discrimination, (EEOC)

Pregnancy Discrimination, (EEOC)

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, (EEOC)

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