Should pregnant workers get special treatment?


When I was pregnant, I made full use of the special parking spot at my newspaper's offices for expecting mothers. It was right up in front of the building and saved me from walking for miles carrying around the 70 pounds I had gained with my daughter.

I didn't ask for special treatment, but it sure was nice to get it.

Now, there's legislation afoot not just to give expecting mothers special treatment, but to save them from losing their jobs or income — just because they are pregnant. Today, Senators Casey and Shaheen, Representatives Nadler, Maloney, Speier, Davis and Fudge are proposing a Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to ensure that pregnant women are not forced out of jobs unnecessarily or denied reasonable job modifications that would allow them to continue working. 

It would seem like the U.S., the democratic country that we are, wouldn't need such legislation. Sadly, we do.

According to women's advocacy groups,  pregnant working women are being denied simple adjustments – permission to use a stool while working a cash register, or to carry a bottle of water to stay hydrated, or temporary reassignment to lighter duty tasks.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act that's being reintroduced in the House and Senate would close legal loopholes. It would prevent employers from forcing women out on leave when another reasonable accommodation would allow them to continue working.  The bill also bars employers from denying employment opportunities to women based on their need for reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

Here are a few examples proponents are giving for the need: Amy Crosby, a hospital cleaner in Tallahassee, Florida, was forced into unpaid leave from her job when the hospital refused to accommodate her doctor’s request that she not lift more than 20 pounds because of her pregnancy; Heather Wiseman, a retail worker in Salina, Kansas, was fired because she needed to carry a water bottle to stay hydrated and prevent bladder infections; and Victoria Serednyj, an activity director at a nursing home in Valparaiso, Indiana, was terminated because she required help with some physically strenuous aspects of her job to prevent having another miscarriage.

I was pregnant three times and I can tell you that pregnancy, while exciting, can present all kinds of health concerns and on the job dilemmas. If a pregnant women is asking for an accommodation, it's only short term — and there's a new life at stake. Will business groups fight this legislaion? Will they say it creates an undue hardship on the employer? 

So far, 138 advocacy and legal rights organizations have shown support for Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. It's being called common sense legislation.

I for one want to see just how much common sense our legislators have when it comes to something so basic as knowing the difference between special treatment and a reasonable accommodation for a pregnant worker. Women increasingly are the breadwinners in their families. They can't afford to be forced into unpaid medical leave or fired while pregnant. Let's get this law passed!


The Work/Life Balancing Act

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