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Pregnant employees still face workplace discrimination

It wasn't so long ago that employers were able to blatantly fire someone simply because they became pregnant. Before the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 become law, it was perfectly lawful to refuse to hire someone, or not provide them with promotional opportunities, or to fire them if they became pregnant and there was no job security for women who took maternity leave.

While Texas employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, that time is typically unpaid and can lead to financial hardship for some families. As a result, many women choose to work as long as they possibly can up until the point that they have their child to maintain that necessary income.

While Texas employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, that time is typically unpaid and can lead to financial hardship for some families. As a result, many women choose to work as long as they possibly can up until the point that they have their child to maintain that necessary income.

As the pregnancy progresses, some work environments become less comfortable and some jobs become harder to do. For example, women who work in manufacturing jobs or in jobs where they are on their feet for most of the day may struggle to continue to stand for many hours during their pregnancy. In fact, it may be unhealthy to continue to stand for many hours or to do other physically demanding tasks.

These women shouldn't have to choose between their jobs and their health and most Texas readers would agree that it makes sense to afford reasonable accommodations to them to help them stay at work and remain healthy. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requires employers to provide those accommodations the same way that they would for an employee that is temporarily disabled for any other reason.

However, the unfortunate truth is that many women are afraid to ask for accommodations for fear of retaliation and many don't know their rights under these employment laws and protections for pregnant employees aren't as strong as those with other types of disabilities. Earlier this year a new law was introduced to Congress to help strengthen protection, called the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. This law would specifically address the needs of pregnant workers and close what some activists say are loopholes in the original Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

Source: Philadelphia Post-Inquirer, "Pregnancy discrimination: a real-world challenge," Bette Begleiter and JoAnne Fischer, Jan. 8, 2012.

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