17 States Sue Over Rule Giving Workers Time Off For Abortions

A coalition of 17 Republican-led states lobbed a lawsuit at a federal agency Thursday over a new policy requiring employers to give time off and other accommodations to pregnant workers who are seeking abortions.

The lawsuit is being led by the attorneys general in Arkansas and Tennessee and takes aim at new regulations that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission finalized last week under the 2022 Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). Despite pushback from conservatives, the EEOC included abortion as one of the pregnancy-related situations employers must accommodate.

“Under this radical interpretation of the PWFA, business owners will face federal lawsuits if they don’t accommodate employees’ abortions, even if those abortions are illegal under state law,” Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin said in a statement. “The PWFA was meant to protect pregnancies, not end them.”

Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti similarly claimed the law is only in place to accommodate certain types of pregnant employees.

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin is helping lead a lawsuit over abortion care guidelines from the EEOC.

“Congress passed the bipartisan Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to protect mothers-to-be and promote healthy pregnancies, and the EEOC’s attempt to rewrite that law into an abortion mandate is illegal,” he said in a statement.

Neither Arkansas nor Tennessee mandate that employers provide paid parental leave.

Additionally, neither Griffin nor Skrmetti addressed what businesses have to lose by allowing their employees time off go have an abortion. The regulations, which apply only to employers with 15 or more employees, also allow employers to deny the accommodations if providing them would cause their business “an undue hardship.”

The following states also signed on to the lawsuit: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and West Virginia. Nearly all of those states have total or highly restrictive abortion bans in place.

The EEOC did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the legal challenge.

In addition to abortions, other pregnancy-related situations requiring accommodations include childbirth, miscarriage, stillbirth, lactation and, in some cases, fertility treatments. Limitations caused by those situations can be both physical and mental. The new rules are set to go into effect June 18.

The regulations are expected to especially benefit patients of color, who are more likely to work low-paying, physically demanding jobs that do not guarantee them time off.

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