Pregnancy discrimination

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Pregnancy discrimination remains an alarming issue in corporate America. Some are denied  wage increases and promotions, while the others with physically demanding jobs have to go through the grief of pregnancy loss. As sad as it is, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act falls short from doing its job.  Enacted in 1978, it is expected to protect working pregnant women from these incidents.

A recently released New York Times report took an extensive dive on this issue. According to the article reporters found cases of women suffering from premature labor and miscarriages while working at a Tennessee Verizon warehouse operated by XPO Logistics. What is heartbreaking is that these incidents could have been prevented if only their doctor’s recommendations to be transferred to less physically strenuous tasks were accommodated by their employers.

A 2013 Danish study showed that bending and lifting heavy objects increases fetal death risk among pregnant women as these could affect the flow of blood to the uterus.  Many businesses still don’t provide special considerations as they are not required by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act to do so.

Pregnancy Discrimination Act lacks teeth to save expecting moms from miscarriages at work

The 40-year-old federal law is currently the only one established and implemented to protect expecting mothers in the workplace.  The Pregnancy Discrimination Act provides leeway to employers. Companies are only required to provide special accommodations to expecting moms if the same treatment is given to others with “similar in their ability or inability to work.”  This means if a company isn’t giving shorter shifts, modified duty, or more breaks to non-pregnant employees, they don’t have to for expectant mothers either.

The article details Erika Hayes’ harrowing story:

At first, Ms. Hayes was processing individual shipments to Verizon customers — one phone, one charger, onto the next. Then, a crush of holiday orders hit the warehouse in December. She said that her boss began dispatching her to the area of the warehouse that handled bulk shipments, often destined for Verizon stores, where the warehouse was struggling to keep up.

She said she could have handled paperwork or stayed in the section of the warehouse devoted to small shipments. But she said her supervisor kept ordering her to work with the largest boxes. Ms. Hayes’s mother said that her daughter talked to her about the rejected requests at the time.

 Ms. Hayes said she began to bleed regularly at work. She sometimes left early to go to the hospital. Each time, she said, her supervisor wrote her up. As the demerits accumulated, she stopped leaving. Instead, she bled through four maxi pads a day.

“My job was on the line,” she said. At the end of a long shift in January 2014, she felt blood gushing into her jeans.

A co-worker fetched her a black peacoat to wrap around her waist to cover the spreading stain. Another grabbed plastic bags to line the leather driver’s seat of her 2003 Hyundai. Ms. Hayes fainted before she could get to the car. An ambulance took her to the hospital

A couple of weeks later, she said, her supervisor handed her a $300 invoice for the cost of the ambulance ride. (Ms. Hayes, who still works at the warehouse and is hoping for a promotion, said she never paid the bill.)

Hers and other women’s experiences tell of a growing problem that spans industries.

Read the full article here.

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