Report: Employers Find Innovative Ways To Discriminate Against Pregnant Workers

Being pregnant isn’t a protected disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but a 1978 law does specifically prohibit discriminating against pregnant workers. Women generally aren’t forced out of their jobs once their pregnancy becomes visible like they were in past decades, but that doesn’t mean that no one ever loses her job (and her health insurance) right at a time when she really needs it.

What employers can do, though, is put unreasonable restrictions on employees who just so happen to be pregnant. These changes may not cost the company anything or affect the employee’s work, like letting a cashier sit on a stool when she has no customers, or letting a shelf stocker sip on a water bottle to prevent dehydration.

According to a new report from the National Women’s Law Center and A Better Balance, this kind of sneaky discrimination disproportionately affects women in lower-paid jobs (think retail employees) or in professions that were once mostly or exclusively male. A letter carrier who asked to be put on indoors duty on exceedingly hot days had her request denied, but other carriers with temporary disabilities received accommodations. A package-delivery driver whose doctor restricts her from heavy lifting can’t be put on light duty, but colleagues with back injuries are. A restaurant line worker had her water bottle taken away, and suddenly was no longer allowed to take time off for doctor’s appointments now that they were prenatal visits.

As one Dollar Tree cashier explained it, her boss wouldn’t let her sit because of, you know, gender equality:

“I asked for a stool to sit on while working at the register, but my boss denied my request and said, ‘You can’t get special treatment since a man can’t get pregnant,’” she was quoted in the report.

Discrimination against pregnant workers has been rising, report says [Washington Post]
It Shouldn’t Be a Heavy Lift: Fair Treatment for Pregnant Workers [National Women's Law Center]
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 [EEOC]