Pregnant, and Pushed Out of a Job

From The New York Times:   http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/31/opinion/pregnant-and-pushed-out-of-a-job.html?_r=1

By DINA BAKST
Published: January 30, 2012

FEW people realize that getting pregnant can mean losing your job. Imagine a woman who, seven months into her pregnancy, is fired from her position as a cashier because she needed a few extra bathroom breaks. Or imagine another pregnant employee who was fired from her retail job after giving her supervisors a doctor’s note requesting she be allowed to refrain from heavy lifting and climbing ladders during the month and a half before her maternity leave: that’s what happened to Patricia Leahy. In 2008 a federal judge in Brooklyn ruled that her firing was fair because her employers were not obligated to accommodate her needs.

We see this kind of case in our legal clinic all the time. It happens every day to pregnant women in the United States, and it happens thanks to a gap between discrimination laws and disability laws.

Federal and state laws ban discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace. And amendments to the Americans With Disabilities Act require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees (including most employees with medical complications arising from pregnancies) who need them to do their jobs. But because pregnancy itself is not considered a disability, employers are not obligated to accommodate most pregnant workers in any way.

As a result, thousands of pregnant women are pushed out of jobs that they are perfectly capable of performing — either put on unpaid leave or simply fired — when they request an accommodation to help maintain a healthy pregnancy. Many are single mothers or a family’s primary breadwinner. They are disproportionately low-income women, often in physically demanding jobs with little flexibility.

Thankfully, State Senator Liz Krueger, a Democrat from Manhattan, and Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, a Democrat from Sullivan County, have introduced legislation to fill this gap in New York. Their bills — S. 6273 and A. 9114 — would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant women whose health care providers say they need them, unless doing so would be an undue hardship for the employer.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/31/opinion/pregnant-and-pushed-out-of-a-job.html?_r=1

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