Opinion by James Turnage
Although I have had my share of angry commentary from the right wing, I consider myself an Independent. In recent years it has been difficult to agree with conservatives who lack the ideals and principals of the GOP in the past. I will undoubtedly be criticized by progressives for this piece, and that’s fine with me. These are my thoughts about the rights of pregnant women in the workplace.
Women who choose to continue working during a pregnancy are protected by a 36-year-old law named the ‘Pregnancy Discrimination Act.’ I have no problem with the law, its provisions are reasonable and logical. I do not agree with individual’s demands to expand the law, forcing employers to offer them special treatment.
The American With Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discrimination in hiring practices. If an individual can perform the requirements the company demands, he or she must receive equal consideration for the position. There shouldn’t be a need for this law; unfortunately past examples of discrimination forced its creation.
If an employee is injured on the job, an employer is required to provide medical care for that person. When he or she returns to work and has received restrictions from their medical care provider, they are frequently reassigned to a position which requires ‘lighter duty.’ This is not only an equitable situation, it protects the individual from a loss of income and medical benefits.
I have a problem with pregnancy, which does not fall into the previous two examples where a business accommodates a physically or mentally challenged individual, or an injured worker. Becoming pregnant is a choice in the vast majority of situations. The woman’s employer should not be responsible for altering the needs of their business because of a medical condition which was created by free choice.
There is an important case before the Supreme Court, which could produce serious repercussions for employers. The decision is not expected until next June. A woman by the name of Peggy Young is claiming discrimination by her former employer, United Parcel Service.
In 2006 Ms. Young became pregnant. Her position with UPS was that of a driver. Drivers are required to possess the ability to lift up to 70 pounds. Her physician gave Ms. Young a note restricting he maximum lift weight to 20 pounds. She asked for ‘light duty’ during her pregnancy; UPS refused. Ms. Young cited other employees who had been reassigned for medical reasons. The delivery service did not feel that she fit the same standards. UPS has recently changed its policy and will offer light duty to pregnant women beginning in January 2015.
Here are the primary eight protections provided for pregnant women in the workplace.
A woman who becomes pregnant may not be fired for her condition.
An employer may not refuse to hire a woman who is pregnant or may become pregnant.
After giving birth, a new mother must be allowed to pump breast milk in a safe place; there will be no discrimination because a woman is lactating.
In some cases a pregnant woman must receive special accommodations. (This does not include women who have normal pregnancies.)
Pregnant women cannot be forced to take time off or change their position if they continue to possess the ability to perform their assigned duties.
Non-medical leave must be available for both men and women.
A woman must be protected from harassment for a pregnancy or pregnancy related situations.
A woman may not be fired if she chooses to have an abortion or is considering the procedure.
You be the judge; do any of these fit Ms. Young’s situation?
The decision by the SCOTUS in late June will have a major effect on businesses across the nation.
By James Turnage