In theory, women in the workplace are supposed to be protected from discrimination through a pair of federal laws. The 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical problems by employers with at least 15 employees. Also, the 2008 expansion of the Americans with Disabilities Act has largely been interpreted to require reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees to allow them to continue to work until they give birth, though pregnancy is not legally considered a disability.
Despite Congress’ intent to provide legal protection to pregnant workers, many women have been the target of employment discrimination by employers who would rather fire or penalize their workers rather than provide them with a stool, water bottle or other minor accommodation.
Among the instances of apparent pregnancy discrimination is one where a retail worker fainted while on the job because the store refused to let her drink water. She had to go to the emergency room because of dehydration. Another woman who worked at a Rent-A-Center was put on unpaid leave after her doctor told the store that she should not lift more than 20 pounds while pregnant, even though her primary duties was as an account representative.
To try to bolster women’s legal protections in the workplace, some members of Congress are sponsoring a bill called the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to explicitly require employers to accommodate female workers while they are pregnant. Other observers expect the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to put more time and energy into combating pregnancy discrimination.
Source: KNOW-FM, “Pushed Off The Job While Pregnant,” Jennifer Ludden, June 11, 2013