November 27, 2012 — "Throughout America, pregnant women in physically demanding jobs face an unconscionable choice: protect their health or keep their job," Arjun Sethi, a lawyer, writes in a CNN opinion piece.
Sethi notes several cases where women working in physically demanding jobs were fired for making accommodations, such as carrying a water bottle or not lifting heavy objects, because of their pregnancies.
In each of the cases, "the pregnant woman lost in court because she could not prove discrimination" under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, Sethi writes. Under the act, employers must treat pregnant women and other employees with similar limitations equally. Sethi writes, "The courts explained that the refusal to provide accommodations was based on gender-neutral and pregnancy-blind policies that were legal, albeit unfair."
"This reasoning has also led to shocking inconsistencies and has permitted employers to treat pregnant workers worse than other employees," Sethi writes. He adds that legislation would "close many of these loopholes" by requiring employers to offer pregnant workers the same accommodations as they do under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Under the legislation, "the rule would be clear: employers could not fire or force pregnant employees out of the workplace just because they request a reasonable accommodation," Sethi notes. Referencing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Sethi concludes, "Pregnant workers need protection, too. All they seek is fair treatment. Is that too much to ask?" (Sethi, CNN, 11/25).