Congress will consider a new bill called the Pregnancy Fairness Act, designed to improve the rights of pregnant workers against endemic discrimination. The bill was introduced on Wednesday in the House.
The ways in which courts have limited pregnancy discrimination laws are well described in this article.
The new law would require employers to make reasonable accommodations to their pregnant workers, similar to requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Like the ADA, it would apply only to employers with at least 15 employees.
Pregnancy discrimination appears to be on the rise, based on the calls I have been receiving. The worker who loses her job because she is pregnant is in a triple bind: she loses income, she loses her health care benefits when she needs them most, and she is less likely to be considered for a job, since she will need a leave of absence in the coming months. Many pregnant women are capable of continuing their work through term, but may occasionally need to sit down, visit a restroom more often, or refrain from heavy lifting. If an employee’s job is “Heavy Lifter,” perhaps no accommodations can be considered reasonable. But for most employees some simple consideration can keep them working.