Sam Levenson had famously said ‘Somewhere on this globe, every ten seconds, there is a woman giving birth to a child. She must be found and stopped.’ It appears that some employers are applying this advice to their pregnant employees’ tenure with them and getting into legal wrangles by demoting the women or firing them from work. Other acts of discrimination include decreased hours, forced unpaid leave etc. The EEOC is committed to prevent such discrimination and ensure that employers do not make fundamental mistakes in following the combined directives of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and the ADA and FMLA. All the laws together are generally blamed for creating uncertainty and confusion in the minds of employers.
Consider that paid maternity leave ranges from 14 weeks to 18 months across the countries of the world. But the maternity leave offered to women, who make up 57% of the total workforce in the USA is mostly unpaid. Many low income women, being single mothers or sole breadwinners, prefer to work till the date of delivery to ensure an income and also save the maximum free time for recuperation and to bond with the baby. Since low income jobs are usually physically demanding, a reasonable accommodation in the duties may be required by such women. Some minimal needs of pregnant women would be more restroom breaks, opportunity to sit down if required to stand for long periods, limited heavy lifting and less exposure to hazards.
What the Law Says
According to law, pregnancy is a temporarily disabling condition and deserves some entitlements and job protection clauses. Other legal requirements covering the treatment of pregnant employees by employers are enumerated below:
The FMLA allows a new parent (including foster and adoptive parents) 12 weeks of leave (unpaid or paid if the employee has earned or accrued it) to use for care of the new child provided the employee has worked for the employer for 12 months prior to taking the leave and the employer has a specified number of employees.
EEOC’s 4 year Strategic Plan
The cases of discrimination filed by pregnant workers have been showing a steady rise and interaction with the public has clearly indicated to the EEOC that most employers lack adequate understanding of the ways in which an employer is required to support pregnant employees to ensure that they have not violated the law. To this end, the EEOC has put together a plan to combat such work place discrimination, including pregnancy from 2012 -16.
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