The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

Discrimination in the workplace is a saddening reality not only in the United States, but also in all other parts of the world. One major difference the U.S. has, though, in comparison with all these countries is her passing and implementation of various laws all aimed at ending all forms of employment discrimination.

Employment discrimination has many different forms and, though employers, managers, supervisors and co-employees are the usual people guilty of discriminatory acts, such acts can also be committed by the company’s customers or clients. These harmful or offensive acts may be based on many different factors including a person’s race, color, sex, religion, sexual inclination and affiliation, age, disability, genetic issue or pregnancy.

Despite Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s prohibition of workplace discrimination based on one’s sex or gender, as well as the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act‘s (PDA) outlawing of discrimination due to pregnancy, childbirth, or other related medical conditions , many women continue to suffer unfair treatment.

While managers usually consider the plight of disabled employees, giving them lighter or less strenuous jobs, women, who request for temporary reasonable adjustments in their work due to pregnancy, are rather either sent on a forced leave or fired immediately. The Leichter Law Firm emphasizes, though, that, due to pregnancy, an employer or any covered entity must treat a woman in the same way it treats temporarily disabled employees. Thus, an employer may have to provide lighter duty, an alternative assignment, disability leave, or unpaid leave to their pregnant employees.

To address the plight of pregnant employees, the 113th US Congress (2013-2014) passed into law the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. This Act declares it unlawful for employers, labor organizations, employment agencies, and other entities to:

Fail to create reasonably acceptable accommodations for women job applicants and employees in view of the limitations temporarily brought about by their pregnancy, childbirth or other related medical conditions unless such accommodation would cause undue hardship in the business operations of that entity;

Require pregnant employees or job applicants to consent to a job accommodation which they would not want to accept; and,

Require pregnant employees to go on leave when, in fact, a reasonable accommodation can be provided.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act also directs the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to make regulations that will ensure the carrying out of this Act, as well as identify specific reasonable accommodations that will address the limitations of pregnant women.

As of April 2015, laws that will require certain employers to provide reasonable accommodations to all their pregnant workers have already been passed in the 14 states and five cities: Alaska; California; Central Falls, Rhode Island; Connecticut; Delaware; District of Columbia; Hawaii; Illinois; Louisiana; Maryland; Minnesota; Nebraska; New Jersey; New York City, New York; North Dakota; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Providence, Rhode Island; Texas; and, West Virginia.

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