Report indicates employer bias against pregnant workers

June 20, 2013

Discrimination against pregnant workers appears to be increasingly common, a new report issued by National Women’s Law Center, Washington, DC, reveals. The report indicates that pregnant workers do not garner the same breaks as workers with disabilities or those who were injured on the job.

Discrimination against pregnant workers appears to be increasingly common, a new report issued by National Women’s Law Center, Washington, DC, reveals. The report indicates that pregnant workers do not garner the same breaks as workers with disabilities or those who were injured on the job.

Pregnant workers in low-paying jobs or positions often held by men are getting fired or being forced to take unpaid leave, should they ask for short-term changes to their jobs, such as requesting to sit instead of stand or asking to ease a lifting restriction.

 “Women make up almost half of the labor force, but all too often they are forced to make an impossible choice:  risk their own health and pregnancy to keep a job or lose their income at the moment they can least afford it,” said NWLC Vice President and General Counsel Emily Martin in a statement. 

At a glance, the report uncovers anecdotes of women who had to forego income or their jobs or health insurance; some had to continue to do their normal job with risks to their health. Yet, their disabled or injured coworkers could get requested job modifications without question.

Though the American Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 is designed to offer legal protections that include temporary setbacks, such as pregnancy, employers are often unaware or not well versed in the law’s intentions. Further, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act mandates that employers handle pregnant women in the same manner as other workers who have similar abilities in their line of work.

However, as the report demonstrates, there is absence of clear federal agency guidance, leaving pregnant workers many times illegally treated worse than workers who are disabled or injured and have similar limitations. 

To date, just 8 states have laws mandating that at least some employers offer certain accommodations to pregnant workers: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland and Texas.

The report generated recommendations to push for fair treatment of pregnant workers, including requesting that federal agencies, like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, produce firm, concise guidance on employers’ legal obligation to accommodate pregnant workers; passage of the federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would require employers to extend to their pregnant employees the same adjustments they already provide disabled workers, and broadening of state law protections of certain accommodations for pregnant workers.