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MSU consolidates Title IX protections for pregnant students and employees

February 21, 2024
<p>The Michigan State Spartan logo on a building, photographed Aug. 31, 2020.</p>

The Michigan State Spartan logo on a building, photographed Aug. 31, 2020.

Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

MSU’s Office for Civil Rights and Title IX Education and Compliance, or OCR, introduced a new policy outlining protections for students and university employees who are pregnant, are experiencing childbirth or pregnancy-related conditions or are parents. 

The policy, shared through a campus-wide email from Vice President for Civil Rights and Title IX Education and Compliance Laura Rugless Wednesday afternoon, is meant to “clarify the robust framework in place to assist students and employees” in addition to aligning with federal laws. The policy does not introduce any new protections but instead pulls all existing protections into one place. 

According to the policy, students who seek a “modification based on pregnancy, childbirth or pregnancy-related conditions, or parenting” will be contacted by OCR with information explaining their rights, resources and details into the accommodations process.

After a student submits documentation from a healthcare provider establishing “medical necessity” and the Title IX Coordinator determines what modifications are reasonable, that student can be granted academic modifications, including periodic absences from class, extensions on assignments and being permitted to take breaks during class for expressing milk.

The policy also dictates that student-athletes may not be excluded from any team-related activity unless the student’s physician or other medical provider certifies that participation is not medically safe. 

Additionally, the policy details the “reasonable accommodations” MSU can provide for qualifying university employees, including but not limited to having flexible working hours, receiving closer parking and receiving additional break time to use the bathroom, eat and rest.

The policy also states that for up to one year following childbirth, any MSU employee who is breastfeeding will be provided “reasonable times and locations” to do so. Those locations include the lactation rooms spread across campus but can also include makeshift spaces, granted they are shielded from view and free from intrusion. 

Within the one-year window, qualifying MSU employees may take reasonable breaks each time they need to express milk. However, non-exempt employees, typically meaning employees paid an hourly wage rather than a salary, who take breaks longer than 20 minutes will not be paid for that time. Exempt employees will not have their pay deducted to reflect break time.

Students and employees who report experiencing harassment or are discriminated against because of their pregnant or parenting status can report to OCR or use the university’s public incident reporting form, as it could be considered discrimination on the basis of sex, the email states.

"MSU remains committed to an inclusive atmosphere where students, faculty, staff and guests may participate in university life without concerns of discrimination," Rugless wrote in the email. "Any student, employee, patient or third party who believes they have experienced discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation is encouraged to report the incident(s) to OCR."

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