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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Ohio's Pregnancy-Bias Rule: Rewritten And Reborn

COLUMBUS (TDB) -- The Ohio Civil Rights Commission wants to change a state rule to make it clearer that employers must treat pregnant workers the same as all others. The move appears to eliminate a confusing clause that seems to suggest open-ended time off for expectant and newby moms, which many would contend is a family friendly doctrine.

The existing anti-bias rule requires that women affected by childbirth, pregnancy or a related medical condition be permitted to leave their jobs for a "reasonable period of time." So far, nobody has been able to determine what constitutes a reasonable period of time.

Matthew D. Miko, the commission's chief legal counsel, explains in the commission's current newsletter "the question of what exactly constitutes a reasonable and sufficient amount of leave, to be sure, admits of no straightforward answer.'' The change, which was introduced last month and still must go through hearings, more closely aligns the pregnancy-bias reg with state law, Ohio Revised Code Section 4112.01 (B), which says pregnant women have to be treated "as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work."

The text of the proposed revision to Ohio Administrative Code Section 4112-5-05 (G) is available HERE.

"Of course, even a facially neutral leave policy many nonetheless be discriminatory if the policy has a disparate impact upon pregnant employees," Miko said. "For this reason, the proposed revision clarifies that where the termination of an employee affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical condition is caused by a policy under which insufficient or no leave is available "such determination shall constitute unlawful sex discrimination if the policy has a disparate impact on employees of one sex and is not justified by business necessity."

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