In the US Pregnant Women Vulnerable to Firing

I was shocked to read that because of a gap between laws protecting persons with disabilities and laws protecting women against discrimination, American women often don’t have legal protection against being fired because they’re pregnant.

According to the NYT, “the Americans With Disabilities Act requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees (including most employees with medical complications arising from pregnancies) who need them to do their jobs. But because pregnancy itself is not considered a disability, employers are not obligated to accommodate most pregnant workers in any way. As a result, thousands of pregnant women are pushed out of jobs that they are perfectly capable of performing — either put on unpaid leave or simply fired — when they request an accommodation to help maintain a healthy pregnancy.”

You can read more here.

3 thoughts on “In the US Pregnant Women Vulnerable to Firing

  1. There’s actually a specific law against firing someone on the basis of pregnancy — the Pregnancy Protection Act, an amendment of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In one case I read, the Gap got sued hardcore for that and lost. Like any kind of employment discrimination, though, it is sometimes hard to prove the motive for firing. Of course, if the company has policies that result in a statistically noticeable number of these firings, you can sue them for creating disparate impact, even if they didn’t intend to discriminate.

    My take on this article is that women can’t seek accommodation under ADA for pregnancy issues. This may be true, but if you’re fired because you’re pregnant, or denied promotion for that, it’s actionable. Most pregnancies don’t require accommodation at work. FMLA should allow unpaid time, too, if a woman needs to take extra time off. Looking at pregnancy as a disability isn’t really a feminist perspective.

  2. The case of Patricia Leahy, who was mentioned in the article, *was* against Gap. She did raise a Title VII claim but I’m not sure of the disposition. She lost on the ADA claim because short-term impairments (whether they’re caused by pregnancy or by some other cause) don’t generally qualify as disabilities under ADA.

    I suspect the scale of the problem complained of in the NYT op-ed piece is huge and deserves to be front-page news. It was an odd oversight for the author of the op-ed not to have mentioned the Pregnancy Discrimination Act or Title VII though, if only to point out perceived inadequacies in that legislation.

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