Statistics show that about 75 percent of women will be pregnant and working at some point of their life. Despite the passing of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act 35 years ago, reports show that pregnant women continue to be treated poorly by their employers.
Illinois is one of only eight states that requires employers to have certain accommodations for pregnant workers. Nationwide, some laws and regulations are in place regarding temporary disabilities and pregnancy, yet working pregnant women can still get caught in loopholes.
Today, the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) and A Better Balance (ABB) released "It Shouldn't Be a Heavy Lift: Fair Treatment for Pregnant Workers," a new report addressing the growing concerns with pregnant women and accommodations in the workplace. Strongly focusing on women with low-wage jobs and jobs commonly held by men, it details how employers are denying pregnant women the same basic accommodations commonly given to workers with disabilities and on-the-job injuries.
NWLC Vice President and General Counsel Emily Martin said in a press release on the report that there is no reason for pregnancy to be a "job-buster." Asking for accommodations, such as honoring a weight lifting restriction or sitting rather than standing, are too often the first steps towards losing a job or forced unpaid leave.
"Women make up almost half of the labor force but all too often, they are forced to make 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," Martin said.
"Pregnant workers are ready, willing and able to continue working but they are often forced out by employers who refuse to make minor accommodations. These women and their families pay a steep price when they're pushed out of jobs."
The report blames widespread confusion about legal regulations and an absence of federal agency guidance for the mistreatment. It recommends a variety of solutions, including a federal agency that manages and guides employers with accommodating pregnant women and expanding state laws to further protect the women.
It also says the passing of the Pregnant Women Fairness Act would bring much needed clarity to the complex situation and get rid of the double standard that exists for pregnant women and disabled workers. This act, introduced in both the Senate and House of Representatives in May 2013, was designed to address the discrimination and require employers to make reasonable accommodations.
Dina Bakst, ABB Co-Founder and Co-President, said in the press release that providing basic rights for pregnant women shouldn't be so complicated. She said keeping pregnant women on the job and healthy will keep costs down, retain employees and build loyalty among employees.
"Let's step out of the dark ages and recognize that pregnant women are an important part of the workforce," Bakst said.
Lindsey is Chicago Parent's summer 2013 intern. She is a senior at Ball State University.
See more of Lindsey's stories here.