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New bill addresses reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers

| May 30, 2021 | Workplace Discrimination |

Bringing children into the world is often viewed as a miracle by many residents in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. However, far too many pregnant women and new mothers are treated less than favorably by their employers during the course of their pregnancy or when coping with complications after childbirth. In many cases, women have been fired, demoted, or denied reasonable accommodations by their employers. Fortunately, a new bill pending in the U.S. Congress may help prevent such actions.

Even though the Pregnancy Discrimination Act has been in effect since the late 1970s, many pregnant women continue to face discrimination in the workplace. Recently, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would build upon the already existing act in order to help pregnant workers receive the reasonable accommodations they need. The accommodations could include, for example, allowing a worker to sit while performing work duties that are otherwise conducted standing up, or not requiring pregnant workers to carry out heavy lifting.

Although 101 representatives voted against the bill, those in favor of it provided examples of injustices faced by pregnant workers as well as arguments against concerns of those not in favor, including:

  • A woman being denied the ability to use a stool while working as a cashier and later experiencing complications with her pregnancy
  • A pregnant worker who was fired after providing a doctor’s note indicating that she could not perform any heavy lifting
  • Stating that the bill would not encroach on the religious freedom of employers

It may seem absurd that some lawmakers still oppose reasonable accommodations and employment protections for pregnant workers, but that is sadly the case. However, as these legislative actions show, more protections could be made into law in the near future, if the U.S. Senate also approves this bill.

In the meantime, if pregnant workers in the Washington, D.C., area are discriminated against or denied accommodations, they may wish to determine whether they have reason to take legal action to address the injustice.  In some cases, pregnant workers may be able to obtain these protections under the D.C. Human Rights Act, or the laws of Maryland and Virginia, depending upon where they worked.