Although often a joyous time, pregnancy presents an array of challenges for working women. Pregnant women may need more time away from work for doctor’s visits or small accommodations to continue working. Sadly, employers often view pregnant employees as a liability. Rather than making simple accommodations, employers chose to terminate the employee or force them to take unpaid leave.
Defining pregnancy discrimination
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines pregnancy discrimination as discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. Pregnancy discrimination can arise in many forms. Employers cannot refuse to hire or promote an employee simply because she is pregnant, but workplaces are hesitant to hire someone who will need time off from work. Also, employers are averse to promote or further train a pregnant employee for the same reason.
In 2013 Maryland passed a law granting reasonable accommodation rights to pregnant employees. Employers with at least 15 employees must explore all possible means of reasonable accommodation as long as the accommodations do not impose undue hardship on the employer.
Employers should not attempt to push pregnant employees out of the workplace either. Pregnant employees must be permitted to work as long as they are able to do their jobs. If an employee cannot perform regular duties temporarily the employer must treat her as they would a temporarily disabled employee as outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act.
An economic problem
Pregnancy discrimination happens across all economic classes, but women in low-income brackets suffer more. Women in working class jobs tend to face higher levels of discrimination. The blue collar jobs these women work are often more physically demanding and require more accommodations. If employers are unwilling to make accommodations, the women must choose between supporting themselves and endangering their fetus, a choice no expectant mother should ever face.
Pregnancy discrimination persists even as the laws to protect pregnant women advance forward. A pregnant worker should not be pushed out of her workplace when small accommodations can help her stay employed, benefiting both the employee and the employer.