5 New Rules About Employment Discrimination During (and After) Pregnancy

Know your rights, and support your family in a way that works for you.

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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently updated its guidelines on pregnancy discrimination for the first time since 1983 to help guide pregnancy-related policies in the workplace. Here's a look at some of the new measures, and what they mean for you.

No forced time off.

Part of being a mother is about supporting your child financially, and it's unfair for employers to force working women to take time off when their duties aren't lagging, says Jennifer Owens, editorial director for Working Mother Media and mother of two. Thankfully, the EEOC has recognized that, too.

Flexibility to breastfeed.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 highlighted the importance of finding a place to breastfeed, and the new guidelines take it a step further by pointing out that women should receive a schedule that accommodates nursing: "If an employer allows employees to change their schedules or use sick leave for routine doctor appointments and to address non-incapacitating medical conditions, then it must allow female employees to change their schedules or use sick leave for lactation-related needs under similar circumstances," say the guidelines. If your company is less than accommodating, speak with your human resources department, and point out your rights, says Emily Martin, vice president and general counsel at the National Women's Law Center.

Related: Your Pumping Problems, Solved

The right to request light work.

"The EEOC makes it clear that it's not about special treatment; it's about equal treatment," Martin says. If your employer provides modifications for a coworker with a broken arm, the same accommodations should extend to you. Approach your boss with a clear outline of what you need, she suggests.

No stereotyping.

Employers shouldn't preemptively assume a new mom won't return to work after the baby. "Such decisions are unlawful," according to the new guidelines. People leave their positions for all kinds of reasons, from finding a new job to going back to school, and pregnant women shouldn't be treated any differently, adds Owens.

Time off for new dads.

The guidelines also recommend paternity leave, which suits the rise of the dual income family, Owens says. "The [EEOC] supporting men in their roles as parents is a thumbs-up move," she says. Tell your partner to talk to his HR rep about securing his deserved leave.

Related: Bonding Tips for Dads