Minnesota workers are protected by state and federal laws against discrimination at work when they get pregnant. Nonetheless, a new national study finds that American employers are routinely discriminating against workers who become pregnant, refusing to accommodate their requests for reasonable accommodations, forcing them to take unpaid leave before they are ready, or just outright firing them.
The study by the National Women’s Law Center and A Better Balance found that the problem is especially widespread for women who work in lower-paying jobs. Researchers cited one example in which a truck driver was forced to take unpaid leave after she became pregnant and requested help lifting heavy items. In another example, a fast-food restaurant fired a pregnant worker who asked to drink water while at work.
Researchers said many employers may not understand that pregnant employees are entitled to protection under the U.S. Pregnancy Discrimination Act. That law provides that when a female employee is temporarily unable to perform her ordinary job duties due to pregnancy, the employer must treat her the same way it would any other temporarily disabled employee. As when an employee breaks a leg, the employer must make reasonable accommodations, such as giving the employee an alternative assignment or modifying the employee’s tasks. A pregnant employee cannot be prevented from working, if she is physically able to do so and wants to keep working. When the woman takes leave for the pregnancy and childbirth, employers are also required to keep her job open for the same amount of time it would for any other employee.
When pregnant Minnesota workers need to take time off to have their child, the U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act protects their jobs for up to 12 weeks. Until they leave, employers are generally required to make reasonable accommodations to allow pregnant women to continue their employment. When employers fail to make reasonable accommodations, they may be violating the law.
No one should have to be fired just because of pregnancy. Expectant mothers need to be sure that their source of income is secure. Minnesota workers who have been discriminated against at work because of pregnancy or other health matters should get help considering their legal options.
Source: Los Angeles Times, “Pregnant workers often fired or made to take unpaid leave, report says,” Shan Li, June 18, 2013.