Pregnancy Discrimination on the Rise

In recent years, it has become increasingly common for women to work well into their pregnancies. Unfortunately, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, reports of workplace discrimination against pregnant employees have also been on the rise.

In many cases, low-wage employees are at the highest risk of pregnancy discrimination. This is usually due to the nature of their work: doctors routinely advise pregnant women to watch carefully the amount of physical activity they engage in. When this is the case, employers sometimes cut a worker's hours or even fire them.

One problem is the way in which courts have interpreted the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Specifically, courts have said that employers do not necessarily have to make the same sorts of accommodations for pregnant women that they do for, say, workers who have suffered some sort of injury. In 2008, the Americans with Disabilities Act was amended to offer greater protections to women who are suffering pregnancy-related impairments. A normal pregnancy is not, however, considered to be a disability.

Recognizing that federal law does not provide enough protection for pregnant workers, Representative Jerrold Nadler recently introduced the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act in the House. If the bill becomes law, it would require employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers, provided they do not impose an undue hardship. It is currently unclear whether the bill has much support in the House, but proponents point out that some states - such as California and New York - have already passed similar laws.

Source: MPR News, "Pushed Off The Job While Pregnant," June 11, 2013