Pregnant and Fired

agnes, some time ago, was pregnant
Creative Commons License photo credit: martathegoodone

If you look back at the last 60 years, it’s clear that women have seen significant progress in a number of areas. Reproductive health, for example, is much different today than it was in 1950. Yet there are some areas – especially the workplace – where society needs to catch up and treat women fairly. This is often evidenced in the area of pregnancy.

Ways around the law

The law bans employers from discriminating against pregnant women at work. However, what many people don’t realize is that there are ways around this law.

Let’s say, for example, a woman becomes pregnant. She’s the cashier at a grocery store. She now needs several extra bathroom breaks during the day, but the store’s policy requires that she take only periodic breaks.

Or, consider another woman, late in pregnancy. She asks her doctor for a note restricting her from doing heavy lifting or from climbing to certain heights during that last few weeks of pregnancy.

Because these women can’t perform their duties, in some places employers are firing them with impunity.

Not a disability

Interestingly enough, this wouldn’t happen if the woman were hit by a car and could no longer carry heavy objects or climb ladders. The Americans with Disabilities Act would protect her. The same goes for a woman who developed preeclampsia, and was on restricted activity from her doctor: the employer would have to defer to that medical complication.

How often does this happen?

This actually happens more often than you think. In many cases, a woman will request an accommodation during pregnancy. The employer might then lay the woman off or even fire her outright, citing the inability to meet the job’s requirements.

Unfortunately, this happens in a disproportionate fashion to women in a low-income situation. Often, they have a physically demanding job, and they’re the primary source of income for the family.

So, what do you think? How should state and federal laws be changed to accommodate for pregnant women?

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