Amanda Roller was a call center employee in Kansas. After Amanda became pregnant she started experiencing morning sickness. Amanda’s supervisor repeatedly refused her requests to go the bathroom and instead told her that she would get Amanda a larger trash can so that she could vomit at her desk. Amanda asked again, and her supervisor again denied her request, saying, “We don’t pay you to pee.” Amanda was then demoted and eventually fired.
Unfortunately, Amanda is not alone. Across the country, pregnant women face discrimination in the workplace when their employers refuse to make adjustments to their job duties such as honoring lifting restrictions, 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 with its requirement 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 PDA, holding incorrectly that it permits employers to provide accommodations to workers with disabilities or on-the-job injuries but deny those accommodations to pregnant workers. Read more »
My senior year of college, two of my roommates and I watched Teen Mom CONSTANTLY. I liked to pretend I wasn’t watching it, but the conversation usually went something like this:
Becka (standing in doorway): “Oh jeez, guys. You’re watching this?”
Arielle: “Yes. Absolutely.”
[10 minutes later]
Rachel: “…Do you want to sit down?”
Becka (still standing in doorway): “…..Yes. FARRAH’S CRYING FACE IS CRAZY.”
When you watch the show, the difficulties of teen parents and pregnant students become painfully clear. Recently, I was re-watching Season 1 on Netflix Instant, and it clicked – wow. The Pregnant and Parenting Student Access to Education Act would REALLY help these girls.
Title IX already affords a number of protections to pregnant & parenting students. This law requires that schools receiving federal funds not discriminate against students on the basis of sex, which includes pregnancy and related conditions like childbirth, pregnancy termination, and recovery. This prohibition against discrimination comes in a number of forms – for example, students must not be forced to attend a different program or school than their peers, must be given the opportunity to make up missed work for pregnancy-related absences, must be treated the same as if they had a temporary disability, and may not be excluded from sports or extracurricular activities.
The Pregnant and Parenting Student Access to Education Act (PPSAE) is designed to go beyond nondiscrimination by giving students the tools they need to succeed. It would enable school districts to – among other things – create graduation plans for pregnant and parenting students; provide academic support, parenting and life skills classes, strategies to prevent future unplanned pregnancies, and legal aid services; help pregnant and parenting students gain access to affordable child care, and revise school policies and practices to remove discouraging barriers. Pretty great, huh? Read more »
The law is very clear: you can’t fire a woman simply because she’s pregnant. You can’t force her onto unpaid “medical” leave when she’s capable of doing her job. You can’t discriminate against her, period, even if your customers would prefer not seeing pregnant women in the workplace. You have to treat her as well as you treat other workers who are similar in their ability or inability to work.
Yet despite these basic black-letter rules—enshrined thirty-five years ago in the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA)—employers often violate them, especially when it comes to pregnant women in low-wage jobs—women who have the fewest resources to fall back on if they lose their paychecks and the most difficulty finding help to enforce the laws that protect them. Read more »
Peggy Young was a UPS truck driver. When employees at her jobsite needed changes to their job duties because they had a disability, or an on-the-job injury, or even a D.U.I. conviction that prevented them from driving legally, UPS provided it. However, when she asked for light duty in order to avoid heavy lifting for a few months because she was pregnant, her employer refused and forced her onto unpaid leave for the duration of her pregnancy. Unfortunately, last week the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held in United Parcel Service, Inc. v. Young, that in doing so, UPS did not violate the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), despite the PDA’s requirement that employers treat pregnant employees the same as other employees who are “similar in their ability or inability to work.” The court held that taking this language literally would “transform an antidiscrimination statute into a requirement to provide accommodation to pregnant employees” and concluded that Congress did not intend this result. It came to this conclusion even though in passing the PDA, Congress stated, “[W]hen pregnant women are not able to work for medical reasons, they must be accorded the same rights, leave privileges and other benefits, as other workers who are disabled from working.”
The Fourth Circuit’s decision is extremely troubling, but to quote an aptly-titled article on the decision, Pregnancy Bias Fight Not Over, Despite 4th Circ. Ruling. The article notes that because the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was expanded in 2008 to require employers to provide accommodations to workers with temporary disabilities, employers may be “guilty of discrimination for not providing pregnant workers the same accommodations” when they have similar temporary restrictions on their ability to work. Read more »
Arjun Sethi and NWLC’s recent article on CNN.com describes pregnant workers’ struggles to hold onto their jobs and have healthy pregnancies, after their requests for minor adjustments to their job duties – adjustments they needed to continue safely working during pregnancy – were denied by their employers. These workers had the audacity to ask for permission to: carry a water bottle, have a stool to sit down, avoid lifting heavy objects, and take bathroom breaks.
For those of us who are lucky enough to work in places that routinely accommodate such requests, or where we don’t have to ask to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water, it can be hard to imagine what it’s like to be pregnant and get fired for following doctor’s orders to stay hydrated, off our feet or follow a lifting restriction.
But that’s exactly what’s happening to some pregnant workers in physically demanding and nontraditional jobs. All too often, employers are quite willing to provide an accommodation to a worker who is injured on the job or has a disability, but insist on denying an accommodation to a pregnant worker. Read more »
Too many employers still seem to be relying on an outdated personnel manual. In fact, the past 10 years have seen a significant uptick in claims of pregnancy discrimination. Some employers continue to blatantly discriminate by firing pregnant workers, especially those in physically demanding jobs. Others are a bit more subtle in forcing pregnant women out of the workplace: they refuse to make minor adjustments to job duties for those workers who need such accommodations to continue safely working.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, recently introduced in Congress, would make a big difference. The bill would strengthen the protections in the Pregnancy Discrimination Act by requiring employers to make the same sort of reasonable accommodations for pregnancy that they are already required to make for disabilities. Read more »
All they needed were minor adjustments to continue safely working during pregnancy. They didn’t get these adjustments. And they all lost their jobs because of it.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would put an end to this absurdity. Senators Bob Casey and Jeanne Shaheen will introduce the bill in the U.S. Senate today. Representative Jerrold Nadler introduced the PWFA in the U.S. House of Representatives in May, and it now has more than 100 co-sponsors. Public health organizations, business organizations, women’s organizations, worker organizations, and religious groups have lined up in support as well.
The PWFA would make it illegal to fire a pregnant employee who requests a reasonable accommodation – such as a water break, bathroom break, or modification of a lifting requirement. Pregnant workers would have the same rights to temporary accommodations on the job that are available to workers with disabilities.
Why do we need this bill? Stories like the ones above sound like they are from the Dark Ages, right? Before the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 made it illegal to discriminate against pregnant workers, women were expected to quit their jobs when they became pregnant. Back then, pregnancy was widely regarded as a disabling condition. Read more »
On Monday, the news broke that a pregnant woman is now leading a Fortune 500 company—an important and exciting milestone. Before being appointed CEO of Yahoo this week, Marissa Mayer disclosed her pregnancy to Yahoo’s Board. When she announced her pregnancy publicly on Monday, she praised the Board for its “evolved thinking” in hiring her anyway – that is, for not violating the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
I’m not so sure following the law is all that praiseworthy, but here’s what made me cringe as I read the otherwise great news of a pregnant woman breaking through the glass ceiling:
I’m picturing a phalanx of 24/7 baby nurses, a state-of-the-art high-tech home office located in a spacious and sunny corner of a beautiful nursery, an in-house lactation consultant, a personal chef, and, don’t forget the personal trainer! As the CEO, Mayer will be free to telecommute to her heart’s content, which is not at all the situation for most working women. Read more »
Who knew we needed a law to protect pregnant women from being fired for taking a bathroom break or drinking water on the job? Speakers at today’s press conference after the introduction of the Pregnancy Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) highlighted the reality many women face in ultimately having to choose between a healthy pregnancy and their job.
At the press conference bill sponsor, Representative Nadler (D-NY), described cases where the law has failed to protect pregnant workers. Rep. Nadler stated what should be the obvious: that the economic devastation of a pregnant woman losing her job impacts not only her, but her family and the employer as well.
NWLC’s Emily Martin spoke at the conference. Martin explained how some courts have limited the protections set out in current law, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).
Martin, pictured above, described the gap courts have created between the PDA and Americans with Disabilities Act, which leaves pregnant workers unprotected when they need accommodations during ordinary pregnancy, such as avoiding lifting heavy objects in the last 6 weeks. The result, Martin explained, is that women “are losing their jobs because employers refuse to make temporary modifications to allow women to perform their jobs safely.”
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) requires that employers treat pregnant employees at least as well as they treat employees “similar in their ability or inability to work”—so Peggy Young, a part-time UPS driver who needed to avoid lifting more than twenty pounds during part of her pregnancy, might have thought that her employer was bound by law to make that accommodation, given that UPS had a policy of giving light duty to various other employees who were physically unable to do their usual job. Under UPS’s policy, employee who had been injured on the job were entitled to light duty, as were employees with a qualifying disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and employees who were injured off the job and failed a Department of Transportation medical exam. But UPS disagreed and forced her to take unpaid leave for the duration of her pregnancy. As a result, she also lost her medical coverage, months prior to the birth of her child. Then, she lost her pregnancy discrimination case, when the district court ruled that UPS could adopt “pregnancy blind” rules that allowed some employees similar to Peggy Young in their ability to work to go on light duty, while blocking Peggy Young from receiving the same accommodation.