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Pregnancy Rights for Working Women

It was 1978 when the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was passed, but still 35 years later women are struggling for fair treatment in the workplace. Although it is illegal to fire someone for being pregnant, many employers refuse to take small steps to accommodate their pregnant workers for a short time. Many women have lost their jobs, or have been forced to take unpaid leave because they were pregnant.

Other than the PDA, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) offer some protection for pregnant women. Many employers have historically chosen to see the ADA as irrelevant and pregnancy as a separate condition from disability. Further, many women are being forced to use up their paid leave during their pregnancy, leaving them with nothing after giving birth.

To combat the misinterpretation and misapplication of these laws, legislation has become more stringent and more states have passed their own laws to protect pregnant women. In 2008, the ADA was amended to include provisions for pregnancy side effects such as severe nausea and hypertension. Some worry that increased legislation will not have any effect, but this may not be true. California has the broadest legal protection for pregnant women and has seen the number of cases decline over the past few years. In contrast, employment lawsuits have increased across the United States.

Potential New Legislation

This past May, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act was introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. This bill is aimed at strengthening workplace protection for pregnant women in the workplace. It is described as a step to require employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers and to prevent employers from forcing women out on leave when there are other reasonable ways for them to continue working.

It remains to be seen whether this act will be passed anytime in the near future, but it seems that many states are taking the battle to a local level. Just recently, Maryland lawmakers passed legislation to strengthen the rights of pregnant workers in their state. Here companies would have to adjust the duties of women who are unable to perform their normal jobs due to pregnancy. This could be allowing pregnant women to do less strenuous work, provide a chair for them to sit on, or permit them to carry a water bottle with them.

Pregnancy and Employment in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, women who take temporary disability payments due to pregnancy or childbirth are entitled to the same rights as those on disability for other reasons. Employers are further prohibited from making mandatory leave policies or dictating when she may return to work. These decisions are to be determined by the employee’s physician just like all other disability cases.

Even without the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act in place, there are clear rights for working pregnant women. If you feel you are a victim of unfair treatment, do not hesitate to contact an employment attorney to discuss your options.