17 States Sue Over Rule Encouraging Abortion Leave for Workers

A group of 17 states led by Republicans filed a lawsuit against a federal agency on Thursday. The lawsuit is about a new policy that requires employers to provide time off and other support to pregnant workers who want to have an abortion.

The attorneys general in Arkansas and Tennessee are leading a lawsuit against new regulations that were recently finalized by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. These regulations were made under the 2022 Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). The EEOC included abortion as one of the pregnancy-related situations that employers must accommodate, even though conservatives disagreed.

“According to Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin, under this extreme interpretation of the PWFA, business owners will be sued at the federal level if they refuse to accommodate employees’ abortions, even if those abortions are illegal according to state law,” stated Griffin. “The PWFA was designed to safeguard pregnancies, not terminate them.”

Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti said that the law is only there to help specific pregnant employees. Tim Griffin, who is the Attorney General of Arkansas, is playing a major role in a lawsuit regarding abortion care guidelines issued by the EEOC.

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“Congress passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to protect pregnant women and support healthy pregnancies. The EEOC’s attempt to change the law into a requirement for abortion is against the law,” he said in a statement. Arkansas and Tennessee do not require employers to offer paid parental leave.

Furthermore, Griffin and Skrmetti did not discuss the potential consequences for businesses when they grant their employees time off to have an abortion. The rules only apply to employers with 15 or more employees. Employers can choose not to provide accommodations if it would cause their business a lot of difficulty.

The lawsuit was also signed by the following states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, and West Virginia. Most of those states have either total or highly restrictive abortion bans in place. The EEOC has not yet responded to a request for comment regarding the legal challenge.

Aside from abortions, there are other situations related to pregnancy that may require accommodations. These include childbirth, miscarriage, stillbirth, lactation, and, in certain cases, fertility treatments. Limitations caused by those situations can affect both the body and the mind. The new rules will start on June 18.

The regulations are expected to help patients of color, who often have low-paying, physically demanding jobs that don’t give them guaranteed time off.

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