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Nessel joins AGs to defend workplace accommodation rules for abortion


Nessel joins AGs to defend workplace accommodation rules for abortion

May 24, 2024 | 2:17 pm ET
By Anna Liz Nichols
Nessel joins AGs to defend workplace accommodation rules for abortion
Attorney General Dana Nessel | Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is joining 23 attorneys general in opposing a lawsuit led by Republican attorneys general to dismantle new federal requirements for workplaces to accommodate workers who have an abortion.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), which into effect last summer, had an update published in April to the list of pregnancy-related conditions workplaces will be legally obligated to provide “reasonable accommodations.” Abortion was added to the list, which would mean, starting on June 18, employers could face legal action if they do not permit employees to take time off to have an abortion or recover from one.

After the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued its final regulations to clarify protections and accommodations in the PWFA in April, a lawsuit brought by the attorneys general of Tennessee and Arkansas, as well as 15 other attorneys general, asserts that the new rules overreach the originally intention of law to provide protection to mothers, children and children that have not been born yet.

The amicus brief Nessel and others filed Wednesday refutes that claim and calls attention to the lawsuit’s request to stop the June implementation of the new rules pending the court’s review, saying that could cause harm to individuals in need of many forms of pregnancy-related care

“… [S]taying the effective date of the rule in its entirety to allow further litigation of plaintiffs’ narrow legal challenge would substantially undermine the interests of persons not before the court, including millions of pregnant workers and their employers who stand to benefit from the rest of the clear guidelines provided by the Commission’s regulation,” the amicus brief reads.

Protecting pregnant workers is the purpose of the PWFA and challenging individuals’ ability to have medical procedures goes against the law’s intent, Nessel said in a news release Thursday.

“Removing this rule is just the latest attempt by some to control bodily autonomy and abolish the personal freedom of workers who are trying to make the best decision for themselves and their families,” Nessel said. “My department will continue to not only protect abortion rights but also the rights of Michigan women in the workforce.” 

The lawsuit against the abortion rule acknowledges that before the PWFA’s passage, the “patchwork off federal employment laws left pregnant workers with limited legal means to seek affirmative workplace accommodations”, but as many states don’t permit abortion or restrict it under state law, “requiring that States create unprecedented accommodations for women seeking abortions, irrespective of whether a woman has a pregnancy related medical condition, would irreparably harm Tennessee, Arkansas, and their co-plaintiff States.”

Other states that filed the brief alongside Michigan are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.