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New Guidelines Protect Pregnant Women From Workplace Discrimination

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- For the first time in more than 30 years, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued guidelines to protect pregnant women from workplace discrimination.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- For the first time in more than 30 years, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued guidelines to protect pregnant women from workplace discrimination.

The guidelines are intended to clarify federal laws on pregnancy discrimination, which in the past, have been interpreted by employers and courts in different ways.

According to the EEOC, the number of charges alleging pregnancy discrimination increased by 37-percent from 1997 to 2013.

Telling others she was pregnant with her second child quickly turned from joy to stress for Christy Lammert.

"Well I told my boss I was pregnant. I think I was five weeks at the time and she told me okay, well that's not going to be a problem," said Lammert. "But then I told her but then I'm not going to be able to do truck anymore and she said well I'm going to still have you do truck."

At the time, Lammert was working at a local variety store in Battlefield, transporting heavy roll containers of up to 500 pounds.
 
"Being pregnant, I couldn't push, because they were really heavy," she said.

Lammert said she asked her boss for lighter duties, to no avail.

"I ended up having to quit because I couldn't," she said. "I wasn't going to risk my child for doing heavy lifting."

Lighter duties and reasonable accommodations are among the many new guidelines issued by the EEOC, which aim to protect pregnant women from workplace discrimination.

According to the guidelines, after childbirth, lactation is now considered a pregnancy-related medical condition.

Sarah Phelps worked as a hair stylist and recently gave birth to her second child. She said finding the time and place to lactate to feed her first child was a challenge.

"It worked pretty well for the first few weeks," said Phelps. "Less and less times I was able to go back and pump."

After trying to negotiate with her boss, Phelps decided she didn't want her second child to be put in the same situation and stopped working after giving birth.

"She definitely tried you know, as much as a boss could. But it is, with her, it was business first," said Phelps. "I kind of felt like that made me be put on backburner."

The new guidelines require employers to be flexible in scheduling and allow a private place for mother to pump. Both mothers said the guidelines are a step in the right direction to protect the rights of working moms who are trying to balance both work and family.

"Even though that you're trying to work and make ends meet, it's good that employers try do that as well," said Phelps. "That they respect and understand employees to do that as well, that they need to raise a family as well as an income, but also to know that families come first."

The EEOC guidelines include other issues. Among them, discrimination based on past and potential pregnancy and allowing equal parental leave for bonding to both women and men.

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