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Pregnant workers often fired or made to take unpaid leave, report says

June 18, 2013|By Shan Li
  • Many pregnant workers -- mostly in low-wage jobs -- can expect some form of discrimination, a report says.
Many pregnant workers -- mostly in low-wage jobs -- can expect some form… (Workman Publishing Co.…)

Pregnant workers, especially those in low-wage jobs, are still routinely fired or made to take unpaid leave before giving birth, a report finds.

That conflict often arises when expectant mothers require temporary accommodations -- such as extra bathroom breaks or sitting instead of standing, according to a report released Tuesday from the National Women's Law Center and A Better Balance.

Although three-quarters of women in the labor force will find themselves pregnant and working at some time in their lives, many companies still refuse to make the kinds of temporary adjustments they will implement for workers with permanent disabilities or on-the-job injuries, the report said.

Examples of discrimination includes a Maryland truck driver who was forced to take unpaid leave after she needed help with heavy lifting and a fast-food worker in Washington, D.C., who was fired after she was barred from drinking water on the job, the report said.

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Emily Martin, a lawyer for the women's law center, said that women are sometimes faced with "an impossible choice -- risk their own health and pregnancy to keep a job or lose their income at the moment they can least afford it."

"These women and their families pay a steep price when they're pushed out of jobs," she said in the statement. "There's no reason for pregnancy to be a job-buster."

Part of the problem stems from confusion on the part of employers, the report concludes. Pregnant workers do receive some protections under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act, but many companies are unsure about their legal obligations to employees who are expecting.

California is one of eight states requiring companies to make some accommodations for pregnant workers. The Golden State has enacted legislation that, among others, mandates pregnancy disability leave.

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Follow Shan Li on Twitter @ShanLi

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