Job Complaints

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

Posted By on May 19, 2015

In the spring of 2012, a 16 weeks pregnant woman was rushed to a hospital somewhere in Manhattan. It was discovered by the attending physician at that time that the woman was employed as a cashier in one of the city’s large stores. Despite her doctor’s orders that she drink water frequently due to her condition, her boss did not allow her to do so while she worked at the cash register. Unable to take adequate amounts of fluids, plus the requirement of having to stand for hours at the register, eventually resulted to her fainting, collapsing and suffering from severe dehydration.

Despite Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s prohibition of workplace discrimination based on one’s sex or gender and the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act‘s (PDA) outlawing of pregnancy discrimination, many women continue to suffer unfair treatment due to their pregnancy.

The story above is, in fact, just one of the thousands of cases which show discrimination based on pregnancy. While managers would usually consider the plight of disabled employees as an act of compliance with the stipulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, giving employees with disabilities lighter or less strenuous jobs, women, who become pregnant and request for temporary reasonable adjustments in their work, are, instead, either sent on a forced leave or are fired immediately.

In the hope of effectively addressing the plight of pregnant employees, the 113th US Congress (2013-2014) proposed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which declares it unlawful for employers, labor organizations, employment agencies, and other identified entities to:

  • Fail to create reasonably acceptable accommodations for women job applicants and employees in view of the limitations temporarily brought about by their pregnancy, childbirth and other related medical conditions unless such accommodation would cause undue hardship in the business operations of that entity
  • Deny opportunities in employment based on the firm’s need to make such reasonable adjustments or accommodations
  • Require pregnant employees or job applicants to consent to a job accommodation which they would not want to accept
  • Require pregnant employees to go on leave when a reasonable accommodation can be provided so as not to compromise their condition

The proposed Pregnant Workers Fairness Act also directs the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to make regulations to carry out this Act, as well as identify specific reasonable accommodations that will address the limitations of women (due to their pregnancy, childbirth, or other related medical conditions).

As of April 2015, a total of 14 states and five cities have already passed laws that will require certain employers to provide reasonable accommodations to all their pregnant workers. These states and cities include: Alaska; California; Central Falls, Rhode Island; Connecticut; Delaware; District of Columbia; Hawaii; Illinois; Louisiana; Maryland; Minnesota; Nebraska; New Jersey; New York City, New York; North Dakota; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Providence, Rhode Island; Texas; and, West Virginia.

According to the website of law firm Cary Kane LLP, employers should comply with all federal and state employment laws and make sure that their businesses are free from any form of discriminatory acts. Thus, it is important that those who strongly feel that they are being discriminated upon, most especially pregnant women, should contact a seasoned lawyer immediately for proper investigation of their case and the legal options they are entitled to pursue.

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