Pregnancy Shouldn't Cost Women Their Jobs

pregnant womanMany of us women work at our jobs right up until the moment we deliver our babies. I have plenty of friends who were furiously tapping away at their computers and smart phones and getting some last bits of work out of the way while they were in active labor. But for some women, working until the very last minute of their pregnancy is not so easy: What if your job requires you to stand for hours without sitting down and you've developed a complication that makes that impossible? What if you need to take more frequent bathroom breaks than your company allows?

In both those cases, there does seem to be a pretty easy solution: How about a chair? How about a little bathroom-break flexibility? But in many cases, Dina Bakst, a lawyer who is also the founder of a family-work legal center, writes in a New York Times Op-Ed piece, pregnant women who need these accommodations are simply pushed out of their jobs. And no, they have no legal recourse. Yup. For real.

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The problem is due to a gap between discrimination and disability laws, she explains. Apparently, the law protects women who are pregnant against discrimination and requires employers to accommodate workers with disabilities. But because pregnancy, on its own, is not deemed a "disability," employers don't have to lift a finger to accommodate it.

Yeah, that stinks, right? Happily, Bakst notes, seven states have passed laws requiring companies to make accommodations for pregnant employees – and more states are currently considering it. That's good news.

Look, it's hard to accept the idea that pregnancy is a "disability." That's a pretty brutal word. It's probably truer to say that, in some cases, it does result in women being temporarily unable to do their jobs without some accommodations being made for their body's changing needs. But whatever, that's semantics. The fact is, we need to do whatever it takes to take care of pregnant women -- and the babies they are working hard to bring safely to term. Having children shouldn't cost women their jobs! It's hard enough to have a baby without also wondering how you're going to feed that child and keep a roof over his or her head once the baby is born.

Protecting the rights of pregnant women is a matter of decency. But it sure sounds like it ought to be a matter of law, too.

Did your employer accommodate you during your pregnancy?

 

Image via jonny.hunter/Flickr

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