Almost 6,000 Workplace Pregnancy Discrimination Cases Filed Per Year

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Pregnant women at work are supposed to be protected against discrimination under federal law, and yet, nearly 6,000 cases of workplace discrimination involving pregnancy were filed with the government in a single year.


The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 5,797 pregnancy discrimination claims in 2011, resulting in employers paying $17.2 million to settle these claims.


Also, pregnancy discrimination claims have been steadily increasing over the past 15 years.


Passed in 1978, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was supposed to prohibit discrimination based on “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; and women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes, including receipt of benefits under fringe benefit programs, as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.”


However, a new report from the National Women’s Law Center and the group A Better Balance found that pregnant workers are often denied reasonable modification of their work conditions, causing them to lose income, benefits or their jobs or suffer pregnancy complications.


“This is really shameful,” Dina Bakst, co-president of A Better Balance, a nonprofit organization that advocates for better policies for working families, told The Washington Post. “We run a legal clinic, and we hear stories like these all the time. It’s a significant and widespread problem.”


Emily Martin, vice president and general counsel of the National Women’s Law Center, said part of the problem is confusion created by federal laws.


For instance, pregnancy is not a disability, and it is not covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, Congress amended the ADA in 2008, requiring employers to accommodate workers’ temporary disabilities.


Martin claims that temporary disabilities should include those stemming from pregnancy. She added that the EEOC should update its guidelines in this area to remove any confusion.


According to the report, nearly two-thirds of first-time mothers work while pregnant and, of these, most work into their last month of pregnancy.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky


To Learn More:

Discrimination against Pregnant Workers has been Rising, Report Says (by Brigid Schulte, Washington Post)

It Shouldn’t be a Heavy Lift: Fair Treatment for Pregnant Workers (National Women’s Law Center and A Better Balance) (pdf)


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