Judge rejects challenge to federal rules on lawsuits aimed at making it easier for workers to have abortions

CHICAGO (AP) – ONE Lawsuit filed by 17 states Tough federal rules allow workers to take leave and other accommodation for abortions lacks standing, an Arkansas federal judge ruled Friday.

Republican attorneys general from each state, led by Arkansas and Tennessee, sued the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in April, days after the agency published the rules for employers and workers to implement the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, a 2022 law requiring many employers to make “reasonable accommodations” for pregnant or postpartum employees.

More and more common workplace arrangements in the event of pregnancy Like time off for prenatal appointments, more frequent bathroom breaks or being allowed to bring snacks, the rules state that workers can request time off to obtain an abortion and recover from the procedure.

The lawsuit filed in Arkansas federal court argued that the regulations went beyond the scope of the 2022 law passed with bipartisan support.

U.S. District Judge DP Marshall, Jr., of the Eastern District of Arkansas, who was appointed to the bench by former President Barack Obama, denied the states’ request for a state-wide preliminary injunction national on the federal rules, which are expected to take effect Tuesday.

“The states’ fear of one branch of the federal government going too far cannot be cured by another branch,” Friday’s ruling said.

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin said in a statement provided by a spokesperson that he was “disappointed by the court’s decision” and “I am exploring all legal options and remain confident that we will ultimately succeed “.

Other states joining the lawsuit include Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and West Virginia.

The EEOC’s regulations are also being challenged in another federal lawsuit in Louisiana that is still awaiting a decision. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, along with other religious groups, filed a separate lawsuit over the abortion provision in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana. That case was solidified by a lawsuit filed by the attorneys general of Louisiana and Mississippi, who also asked the judge to delay enforcement of the EEOC rules pending the outcome of the case.

The American Civil Liberties Union and more than 20 workers’ and women’s rights groups, including A Better Balance, a nonprofit that led the 10-year campaign to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act , filed amicus briefs in both cases, arguing that the EEOC rules should take effect as scheduled, viewing them as key to the law’s successful implementation.

“Today’s decision in Tennessee v. The EEOC is a victory for millions of pregnant and postpartum workers across the country as it allows Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) regulations to take effect next week, providing important clarity on how the law works in practice,” said Dina Bakst of A Better Balance.

In their briefs, the groups cited dozens of continuing examples of pregnant workers who have contacted advocacy groups or filed lawsuits claiming that employers must deny them accommodations in violation of the Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act.

“The relief sought in this case is completely over the top and would have harmed literally millions of people,” said Gillian Thomas, senior attorney for the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, referring to the Arkansas lawsuit. “The law has been in effect for a year and employers are most blatantly violating it left and right and clearly need guidance. »

The EEOC, in its regulations, said it was complying with decades of legal precedent establishing that pregnancy anti-discrimination laws include abortion.

Abortion rights advocates also hailed the protection afforded by the EEOC rules as particularly critical in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision that struck down the constitutional right to abortion. Women living in states with strict abortion restrictions increasingly must travel far to get the procedure and need time off to do so.


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