Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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Localizing employment policy issues

February 3, 2020

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Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has brought pregnancy discrimination back into the national spotlight. Photo of a pregnant woman by Ryan Franco via Unsplash.

While on the campaign trail this fall, Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren shared a story about getting fired for being pregnant. That was in 1971, seven years before Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978. The Act was supposed to outlaw pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, but a flurry of social media responses show pregnancy discrimination may still be an issue today. 

Here’s a look at how to localize this and other employment policy issues. 

Pregnancy discrimination

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website has a detailed breakdown on federal policies around pregnancy discrimination and harassment and related issues. What kind of resource do readers have if they feel an employer has discriminated or harassed them while they were pregnant? How should employees or prospective employees document these incidents? An employment law expert in your state should be able to shed some light on these and related questions. 

Unpredictable work schedules

When an employee’s workweek requires unpredictable hours, it can make it virtually impossible for that employee to finish college, care for family members, or piece together additional sources of income. Lack of a predictable schedule also creates stress. 

As a result, Vox reports that several cities have passed “fair workweek” laws that aim to provide workers with more predictable schedules. These laws are aimed at protecting workers in retail and hospitality but white-collar workers aren’t immune from the stresses of unpredictable hours either. Does your city have any “fair workweek” legislation on the books or in the works? How might this impact local businesses and workers? 

Right to disconnect policies 

With smartphones and VPNs, many workers are now connected 24/7 even when they’re not technically on the clock. The stress of constant connectivity has prompted officials in France and Spain to pass “right to disconnect” rules, according to SHRM. The New York City Council considered similar legislation, according to Vice, but the proposed bill seems to have stalled. While the U.S. doesn’t have any state or city-specific policies on this, some individual employers are recognizing the harm of 24/7 connectivity and requiring employees to log off for weekends or vacations. Are any local companies instituting these policies? If so, what has been the impact on worker morale and productivity? 

Reporter’s Takeaway 

For issues relating to employment law, consider interviewing law professors and/or lawyers in your state. lists 48 professors who specialize in employment law, and that list is searchable by state. For actual lawyers, also has a database searchable by state. 

SHRM and XpertHR have a state-specific breakdown on employment law that can help journalists get up to speed on regulations in their neck of the woods. 

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