This heartbreaking current event serves as a stark reminder: employees have the right to be pregnant. Pregnant employees have the right to accommodation. Don’t let your employer bully you into risking the health and welfare of your unborn baby.
Reyna Garcia is suing Albertson’s in California for the loss of her baby. Her complaint alleges that she presented her employer with three separate doctor’s notes regarding her high-risk pregnancy, and her requests for reasonable accommodation were ignored. As a general merchandise manager, Garcia’s job duties included heavy lifting and pushing large pallets of merchandise over the course of the workday.
Her baby was born at 20 weeks gestation and lived for only a few minutes.
After the death of her baby, she was permanently demoted to a job with less heavy lifting. She should have been temporarily assigned different job duties during her pregnancy with no change in pay.
While Garcia’s case is in California and each state may have different laws relevant to pregnant workers, according to the National Women’s Law Center there are federal laws that protect all pregnant workers in the United States of America.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was put in place about 35 years ago because of arguments that the Americans with Disabilities Act did not apply to pregnancy because pregnancy is temporary.
In addition, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines state:
“An employer is required to treat an employee temporarily unable to perform the functions of her job because of her pregnancy-related condition in the same manner as it treats other temporarily disabled employees, whether by providing modified tasks, alternative assignments, disability leaves, leaves without pay, etc. For example … if other employees temporarily unable to lift are relieved of these functions, pregnant employees also unable to lift must be temporarily relieved of the function.”
While protections do exist on paper, the NWLC discusses numerous cases in which the courts ignore the rights of pregnant employees to be accommodated. Their call to action includes an end to the double-standard of temporarily injured employees being accommodated and pregnant employees being told to step down if they can’t do their jobs.
The NWLC also offers a business case for pregnancy accommodation. Not only is the cost of temporary accommodation minimal, but employers with reasonable and humane policies enjoy higher employee retention and loyalty.
The bottom line is you do have the right to work and be pregnant at the same time. Working mothers need the income their jobs provide. If you are treated poorly due to pregnancy, stand up for your rights.
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