Pregnant woman From 2010 to 2018,the EEOC received on average 3,000 to 4,000 complaints of pregnancydiscrimination per year. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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When a worker announces she's expecting a baby, there are definitely somethings her employer should do—and should not do—or else face EqualEmployment Opportunity Commission charges, lawsuits and badpublicity, according to XpertHR's whitepaper, “Bumpy Road Ahead: Managing Pregnancy and RelatedIssues in the Workplace.”

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“Making negative comments, involuntarily reassigning an employeebased on health and safety concerns, refusing to hire a pregnantemployee and failing to provide a reasonable pregnancy or lactationaccommodation all may constitute unlawful conduct for which anemployer may be held liable, the authors write. “Some employers arelearning this the hard way.”

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Related: Wall Street dads find parental leave easier to getthan to take

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Employers like Amazon, Cato Corp., Family HealthCare Network,Estee Lauder, JPMorgan Chase and Auto Zonecollectively have paid tens of millions to settle lawsuits allegingdiscrimination or failure to provide reasonable accommodations.From 2010 to 2018, the EEOC received on average 3,000 to 4,000complaints of pregnancy discrimination per year, and on the statelevel, nearly 31,000 charges of pregnancy discrimination were filedwith those agencies from 2011 to 2015.

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Part of a manager's duty to comply with regulations is letting apregnant women decide whether or not she can continue to performall of her duties, even if it's lifting heavy objects, according tothe report.

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“Avoid imposing paternalistic notions with respect to pregnantwomen and what they are capable of in the workplace and withrespect to their jobs,” the authors write. “Each employee has theright to make her own decisions regarding what is best for her andher pregnancy.”

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Employers are also required to treat fathers fairly andequally.

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“Ensure that policies and practices do not reinforce traditionalgender roles and stereotypes and send a message to new mothers thatthey should stay home as caregivers, while new fathers shouldreturn to work as breadwinners,” the authors write. “Further,consider all types of families, including those with same-sexparents or grandparents as caregivers, when administering suchpolicies.”

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There may be a new federal law coming down the pike: thePregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 2694), a bipartisan billintroduced in May. Under the proposed law, employers would berequired to provide reasonable accommodations for an employee's orapplicant's known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth orrelated medical conditions, unless the employer can demonstratethat the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on businessoperations.

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Employers also may not require applicants or employees to acceptaccommodations an individual chooses not to accept or to take paidor unpaid leave if another reasonable accommodation can beprovided. The proposed law also contains retaliationprovisions.

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“Under current law, women are not guaranteed reasonableaccommodations to remain healthy and in the workforce duringpregnancy,” say proponents of the bill, according to XpertHR'sreport. “This bipartisan effort puts in place a uniform, fair andfamiliar framework for employers and will enable women to keepworking safely and provide for their families throughoutpregnancy.”

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As it stands now, employers should EEOC's 2015 updated guidanceon pregnancy discrimination and related issues, detailing thefollowing:

  • Unlawful discrimination against pregnant women
  • The obligation to provide pregnant workers with equal access toemployment benefits such as leave, light duty, health benefits andaccrual of retirement benefits and seniority
  • Pregnancy-related impairments under the ADA and its amendmentsand the right to reasonable accommodations
  • Protections for caregivers
  • Prohibitions on an employer taking adverse action against apregnant worker based on health and safety concerns or prejudicesof co-workers, clients or customers
  • The application of the PDA to lactation and breastfeeding
  • Unlawful harassment against pregnant women
  • Light duty work
  • The prohibition on requiring a pregnant employee to take leavefrom her job at any point in her pregnancy or after childbirth
  • Parental leave for new mothers as well as new fathers

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Katie Kuehner-Hebert

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer based in Running Springs, Calif. She has more than three decades of journalism experience, with particular expertise in employee benefits and other human resource topics.