Despite California and federal protections for pregnant workers, complaints nationwide of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace have increased by 35 percent over the last 10 years. In the last year alone, 3,745 pregnancy discrimination complaints were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Apparently, prohibitions against treating a female employee differently because she is pregnant do not go far enough to protect female employees or put employers on notice of what constitutes illegal treatment of pregnant workers.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act aims to close the gaps that employers seem to find in current legislation intended to protect workers from pregnancy discrimination. Reintroduced in both the House and the Senate in May, the bill would require employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees.
Even though it is illegal, women who are pregnant are all too often forced to take unpaid medical leave for the duration of their pregnancy. The result of being forced to take early leave may mean that job-protected leave is exhausted before or just shortly after the child’s birth.
Still others are denied reasonable accommodations, like the ability to drink water more frequently during a shift or a reassignment to a light duty workload, despite the recommendations of a treating physician.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would strengthen anti-pregnancy discrimination legislation by making it harder for employers to legally force pregnant employees out of work. A loss of work of course means a loss of pay and typically a loss of group health insurance coverage at critical time for an expectant mother.
Source: People’s World, “Unions back law to protect pregnant workers,” May 9, 2013