Imagine you are a required to take a pregnancy test as a condition of employment, or you are a truck driver and are fired because you requested light duty work because of your doctor’s recommendations. Or upon notifying your employer of your pregnancy your supervisor tells you to get an abortion. Many Californians might think these stories are from long ago, but think again, they were all discussed at last month’s hearing by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on the issues women and families face when it comes to pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.
In 1978 the United States Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act which requires the majority of employers to treat pregnant employees and applicants the same as any other employee or applicant. But more than three decades later pregnancy discrimination claims filed with the EEOC are on the rise.
According to the National Women’s Law Center, there was a sharp increase in the last decade the EEOC reported claims filed by pregnant women. Claims increased from 4,160 in 2000 to 6,119 in 2010 with 1 in 5 claims filed involving some form of pregnancy discrimination. The discrimination faced by pregnant women and caregivers just keeps on persisting despite the changes in laws and precedence set by the courts. Too many employers violate these laws with relative impunity and just when these employees and their families need the economic stability the most.
Mothers are not the only target of employers, all caregivers of both the young and the old are in the crossfire. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 was passed to provide workers with job-protection with the right to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for medical reasons or to care for family members.
Last month’s hearings held by the EEOC were designed to shed light on the blatant forms of discrimination pregnant women experience in today’s workplace. Employers are violating the protections in place and panelists were searching for solutions to the rise in pregnancy related discrimination complaints. More guidance for employers, more data collection on specific problems and more coordination between the Department of Labor and the EEOC were discussed as possible ways to reduce the number of complaints received.
Source: United Press International, “Enforcing the pregnancy bias law of 1978? Long overdue,” Allison Stevens, Mar. 7, 2012