Monday, August 13, 2007

OCRC appears to bend on pregnancy leave regulations

Sunday's New York Times is reporting that Ohio business groups have successfully lobbied the Ohio Civil Rights Commission to revise its proposed maternity leave regulations. The article quotes various business organization leaders, in addition to the OCRC's Chairperson, in discussing the merits or lack thereof of the proposed regulations:

Jeanine P. Donaldson, who this year became the first woman to lead the commission, said the law on maternity leave needed to ensure that more women were protected against discrimination.

Ms. Donaldson said she was willing to bend on the number of weeks of guaranteed leave but hoped to preserve the stipulation that length of service would not affect eligibility.

“I don’t think a woman can decide when to get pregnant,” Ms. Donaldson said. “To choose motherhood over livelihood, I don’t think that is what the legislators had in mind.”

Business groups say the expanded leave would damage the economy. “There’s really no reason to change the current law,” said Tony Fiore, director of labor and human resources policy for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

Requiring small businesses to hold open positions would be a hardship, he said, as would the immediate eligibility for new workers at large corporations.

Ty Pine, legislative director for the Ohio branch of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, said the market was doing a good job of establishing reasonable maternity leaves for workers and businesses.

“We would like to maintain the current practice of reasonable time off without mandating specifically,” Mr. Pine said.

It now appears that some modified form of the revised OAC 4112-5-05(G) will go the legislature for approval. A revision to the amount of the guaranteed leave entitlement would take away rights that are already available to nearly all Ohio employees under judicial interpretations of the current 4412-5-05(G). I am amazed that the OCRC would bend so easily from a little bit of pressure from business lobbies. If the OCRC actually agrees to bend on the issue of the amount of available guaranteed leave, it will represent a genuine victory for small businesses. I will continue to post updates on this issue as the revised regulations are published.