Battle Over Abortion Rights in the Workplace: 17 States Sue EEOC

Alex Lewis

Battle Over Abortion Rights in the Workplace: 17 States Sue EEOC

A group of 17 states led by Republican officials filed a lawsuit against a federal agency on Thursday. They’re upset about a new rule that says employers have to give time off and other help to pregnant workers who need abortions.

The lawsuit is mainly led by lawyers from Arkansas and Tennessee. They’re targeting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for making these rules under the 2022 Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). Even though some conservatives pushed back, the EEOC said employers must help with abortions, along with other pregnancy-related needs.

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin said this new rule means businesses could get sued if they don’t help employees with abortions, even if it’s against state laws. He thinks the PWFA was supposed to protect pregnancies, not end them.

Tennessee’s Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti said the law is only meant to help certain pregnant workers.

Griffin also said the EEOC is breaking the law by trying to turn the PWFA into a rule about abortions.

Neither Arkansas nor Tennessee forces employers to give paid time off for new parents.

Also, Griffin and Skrmetti didn’t talk about what businesses might lose by letting employees take time off for abortions. The new rules only apply to businesses with 15 or more workers. And businesses can say no if giving time off would really hurt them.

These other states joined in the lawsuit: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, and West Virginia. Most of them have strict rules against abortions.

The EEOC didn’t respond to questions about the lawsuit right away.

Besides abortions, the new rules also say businesses have to help with other pregnancy stuff, like childbirth, miscarriages, stillbirths, breastfeeding, and sometimes, fertility treatments. These things can make it hard for workers, both physically and mentally. The new rules start on June 18 and are expected to help workers of color, who often work tough jobs that don’t give them time off.

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