Saturday, July 13, 2024

Federal Judge Sides with Louisiana and Mississippi to Protect Pregnant Workers’ Rights

by BIZ Magazine

In a significant legal decision, a federal judge has granted a preliminary injunction against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), siding with Louisiana Attorney General Liz Murrill and Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch. This ruling blocks the EEOC’s recent interpretation of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), which the Attorneys General argued was an overreach attempting to impose a national abortion mandate.

The decision, issued on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, comes after the Attorneys General filed a complaint in May, asserting that the EEOC’s stance on the PWFA violated the intent of Congress and the U.S. Constitution.

“The District Court applied a common-sense interpretation of the plain words of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act,” said Attorney General Liz Murrill. “When this law was debated, members of Congress uniformly agreed it did not apply to abortion. The Biden Administration continues to re-write laws in ways Congress never intended, which violates the United States Constitution. We are grateful the District Court blocked the rule. I would specifically like to thank the hard work of my Solicitor General Ben Aguinaga and his team for their continued dedication and hard work defending Louisiana and the Constitution.”

Attorney General Lynn Fitch echoed these sentiments, emphasizing the importance of the PWFA in supporting women in the workplace. “The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is an important measure to support women in the workplace when they are pregnant and following childbirth. It is a shame that the Biden Administration is putting its single-minded drive to undo the Dobbs opinion and overrule the right of the people to make decisions about abortion policy above the needs of working women. We appreciate the court’s thoughtful opinion and look forward to working toward a commonsense implementation of the Act, which would accommodate pregnant women while respecting state laws to protect life.”

Background and Legal Implications

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act was designed to bridge the gap between existing laws such as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act. These laws collectively aim to prohibit workplace discrimination, require accommodations for disabilities, and provide extended leave for serious health conditions, respectively.

In his ruling, Judge David Joseph highlighted the lack of clear congressional intent to mandate accommodations for elective abortions under the PWFA. “If Congress had intended to mandate that employers accommodate elective abortions under the PWFA, it would have spoken clearly when enacting the statute, particularly given the enormous social, religious, and political importance of the abortion issue in our nation at this time (and, indeed, over the past 50 years),” Judge Joseph wrote.

During the legislative debate, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) explicitly stated that the EEOC could not require abortion leave under the PWFA, nor could it mandate that employers provide abortions in violation of state law. This perspective was echoed by a broad coalition of organizations, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which supported the law for ensuring that no woman would be forced to choose between her future and her child’s life while also protecting employers’ conscience rights and religious freedoms.

Next Steps

The preliminary injunction represents a significant victory for those advocating for a more restrictive interpretation of the PWFA in line with its original congressional intent. The case will continue to unfold in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, with both sides preparing for further legal battles over the extent of the EEOC’s authority and the implementation of the PWFA.

For more information, contact the offices of Attorney General Liz Murrill or Attorney General Lynn Fitch.

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