Thursday, October 25, 2007

OCRC to vote on new maternity leave regulations

Over the summer I reported on the Ohio Civil Rights Commission's proposed amendments to its pregnancy discrimination regulations, Ohio Administrative Code 4112-5-05(G), which would extend 12 weeks of guaranteed unpaid maternity leave virtually to all employees, not just those covered by the FMLA. See The more things change the more they stay the same, and OCRC appears to bend on pregnancy leave regulations. Now, after three months of inactivity on this issue, it appears that the OCRC is finally ready to act on these regulations. Today's Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that the OCRC will consider the new regulations today (see Ohio may expand maternity leave rights to all moms. As reported, the change would supersede the federal FMLA by extending guaranteed pregnancy leave to Ohio employees no matter how long they've worked at a company, to part-time workers, and to anyone at a company with at least four employees. As revealed by the text of the proposed amendment, the OCRC resisted lobbying by business groups to lessen the amount of available leave from 12 weeks to 8 weeks. It is expected that the OCRC will approve these regulations. The final step before they would go into effect is approval by a legislative subcommittee, which would probably happen fairly quickly. Once enacted, Ohio would join 18 other states that have granted maternity leave beyond that guaranteed by the FMLA.

Coincidentally, today's USA Today has an article on the growth of family responsibility discrimination ("FRD") lawsuits. While I still believe that the OCRC's new regulations do not substantively change the law, they will increase awareness about the rights of employees of small business to pregnancy-related leaves of absence. That awareness certainly will not do anything to slow down the trend of FRD lawsuits against Ohio businesses. Now is as good a time as any for all companies to review their maternity leave policies to ensure that they provide for 12 weeks of leave, so that new policies can be put in place if needed.