Pregnant Workers Face Discrimination When Employers Refuse Workplace Adjustments to Job Duties
When Amanda Roller became pregnant and started experiencing morning sickness her supervisor at the call center she was employed at repeatedly refused her requests to go the bathroom. Instead her supervisor told her she would get Amanda a larger trash can so that she could vomit at her desk. When Amanda asked a second time she was not only denied, but additionally told by her supervisor, “We don’t pay you to pee.” Amanda was then demoted and eventually fired.
In workplaces across the nation pregnant women face discrimination when their employers refuse to make adjustments to their job duties, including lifting restrictions such as allowing them to stay off high ladders, or even just letting them go to the bathroom to vomit.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) outlawed this type of discrimination in 1978, requiring that employers treat pregnant workers the same as those who are “similar in their ability or inability to work.” But too many lower courts have misinterpreted the Act, upholding incorrectly that employers are permitted to provide accommodations to workers with disabilities or on-the-job injuries but deny those same accommodations to pregnant workers.
Pregnant Workers Need Fair Interpretation of “Pregnancy Discrimination Act”
Luckily, many pregnant workers are able to continue working throughout their pregnancies without changes to their jobs. But some other pregnant workers – particularly those in physically demanding and low-wage jobs – need these accommodations in order to have healthy pregnancies as well as continue to provide for their families.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act was recently reintroduced in Congress lead co-sponsors, Senators Casey and Shaheen and Representative Nadler. The Act would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship.
For more than a decade California has had similar legislation requiring employers to accommodate pregnant workers. During that time the number of pregnancy discrimination lawsuits decreasedin the state, even while the number of similar suits rose nationwide. A temporary physical impairment that can easily be accommodated should not cost a pregnant worker her job. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would do just that.
Peter K. Levine
A Professional Law Corporation