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Are injured workers treated better than pregnant ones? How expectant mothers unprotected by law are at higher risk of losing their jobs

Are injured workers treated better than pregnant ones? How expectant mothers unprotected by law are at higher risk of losing their jobs

  • Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, companies are required to modify the job duties of injured employees
  • Currently, only women suffering from severe pregnancy-related conditions are entitled to such 'reasonable accommodations'
  • By MARGOT PEPPERS

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Women who are pregnant are receiving less protection at work than those who are injured.

 

Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, companies are required to provide injured employees with 'reasonable accommodation'.

 

For example, if someone who regularly lifts heavy objects at work injures their back, the employer is required to modify their job duties.

Unfair: Pregnant woman - especially the working class in physically demanding jobs - receive no guaranteed protection from losing their jobs

Discrimination: Pregnant woman - especially working class ones in physically demanding jobs - receive no guaranteed protection from losing their jobs, unlike injured empoyees

 

But even though pregnant women are often advised by doctors not carry out physically demanding activities, there is currently no law that protects them from losing their jobs if they cannot perform certain tasks.

 

Indeed Dina Bakst, co-founder of New York nonprofit A Better Balance, explains that the unbalanced law has a particularly significant impact on low-wage women in physically demanding jobs.

'Women don't have a clear legal right,' she told Gothamist.

 

'And yet disabled workers. . . a man could come back from a ski accident and it's like, "Let me get you an ergonomically designed chair."'

 

 

The reasonable accommodations that would benefit pregnant women would be relatively minimal and cheap, such as more bathroom breaks, a stool to sit on or permission to carry a water bottle.

 

But under the law, only expectant women suffering from severe pregnancy-related conditions like preeclampsia - which can develop into life-threatening seizures - are entitled to reasonable accommodation.

 

For otherwise healthy pregnant women, having a baby bump can be seen as a hindrance to many employers, whose attitude is: 'If you can't do this job, you go.'

 

That was the case for one woman named Yvette, who was forced to quit her grocery store job after her boss told her there were 'no jobs' that didn't require lifting heavy objects or pushing heavy bakery carts.

 

These were tasks her doctor had specifically asked her not to do, since a series of miscarriages had left her with a blood clotting disorder.

 

Even though Yvette offered to do work at the cash register or in the office instead, she says her boss refused.

'Pregnant women don't have a clear legal right, yet disabled workers do'

The most unfair aspect of this, she says, is that injured employees are treated completely differently. 'One woman, she hurt her shoulder,' she recounted. 'They gave her a job re-shelving lighter items.

 

Pregnant women are supposed to be protected under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which states: 'If an employee is temporarily unable to perform her job because of her pregnancy, the employer must treat her the same as any other temporarily disabled employee.'

 

But Katharine Bodde, policy counsel at the New York Civil Liberties Union, says this is rarely enforced.

'There's a gap in protection under the law,' she said.

 

'Courts have not interpreted the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act to require employers to provide reasonable accommodations.'

 

In New York, women can opt to file a charge with the New York State Division of Human Rights, but this often takes months to accomplish, time which many pregnant women simply do not have.

 

Later this month, though, this all may change if New York State legislature passes the proposed Women's Equality Agenda.

 

According to Gothamist, the law would require employers to provide reasonable accommodation for any pregnancy-related condition, 'unless doing so would cause an undue hardship on the employer.'



Discussion started by sitemanager , on 646 days ago

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