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Monday, July 14, 2014

New EEOC Guidance “Significant Victory” for Pregnant Workers

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Joan C. Williams, Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of the Center for WorkLife Law

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today published new “Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues.”

The guidance, already a hot topic among employment lawyers nationwide, draws heavily on the written testimony of Joan C. Williams, Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of the Center for WorkLife Law at UC Hastings College of the Law.

“This is a significant victory,” says Professor Williams. “Too often today pregnant workers lose their jobs when employers deny them accommodations that are regularly granted to other employees. What we did was went in and said, ‘Look, these women are currently entitled to accommodations under law.’

The guidance steers EEOC investigators who may be investigating cases, explains Williams, but the real impact will come through employment lawyers who represent employers and use this to advise their clients.

“This will help employers recognize that pregnant workers often are entitled to accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act if, for example, they need light duty, to use a stool rather than standing, or carry a water bottle.”

In addition to citing Professor Williams testimony (three times), the guidance also cites Sharon Terman’s written testimony, which cited Stephanie Bornstein’s 2011 WorkLife Law article “Poor, Pregnant and Fired: Caregiver Discrimination Against Low-Wage Workers.”

Amazing accomplishment.

This marks the second time the EEOC has adopted the Center for Worklife Law theories, the first of which was in 2007 Guidance on “Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities.” The EEOC’s attention was turned to this issue by “Poor, Pregnant and Fired,” which caught the attention of the EEOC Chair.

“I never thought lightning would strike twice,” says Williams. “This is not something that happens every day, and I am completely thrilled.”

The Center for WorkLife Law 

The Center for WorkLife Law at UC Hastings College of the Law seeks to jumpstart the stalled gender revolution by focusing, at any given time, on a few projects that hold the promise of producing concrete social or institutional change within a three-to-five year time frame. WorkLife Law has pioneered the research and documentation of family responsibilities discrimination, also known as caregiver discrimination, which includes pregnancy discrimination (including a failure to provide pregnancy accommodations) as well as employment discrimination against parents and elder caregivers. Our current initiatives include programs and best practices for advancing women leaders, case studies on major law firm rainmakers and new models of legal practice, research on how gender bias differs by race, and an innovative working group on pregnancy accommodation.

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Media Contact:

Alex A.G. Shapiro
Director, Communications & Public Affairs
UC Hastings College of the Law
Office: (415) 581-8842
Cell: (415) 813-9214
Email: shapiroa@uchastings.edu

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