Chicago, IL (Law Firm Newswire) December 3, 2014 — Pregnancy discrimination is illegal, but the practice is on the rise.
“Being pregnant does not mean a woman cannot play a valuable and necessary role in the workforce. Despite the rules that clearly state pregnancy discrimination is illegal, it continues to happen, with employers attempting to covertly or overtly push pregnant workers out of their jobs,” explained Chicago employment attorney Timothy Coffey.
The original U.S. legislation, still active, is the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. It bans employers with 15 or more workers from discriminating in the workplace based on childbirth or pregnancy. Pregnant women must be allowed to work as long as they are able, and any absences must be treated in the same manner as other disability leave. Even thought this Act prohibits discrimination, employers are not required to make any accommodations. Some states have closed this loophole.
In 2012, the U.S. Senate proposed H.R. 1975, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). If passed the PWFA would require that reasonable accommodations be made for pregnant workers and for pregnancy- or childbirth-related medical conditions. The accommodations may include, but not be limited to: reassigning non-essential tasks, modifying any lifting requirements and allowing pregnant workers to sit on a stool if they stand all day. The PWFA would strictly prohibit employers from firing pregnant workers or forcing them to take maternity leave.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the proposed PWFA are not the only pieces of legislation under which pregnant women may receive protection. There are also provisions in the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
In today’s workforce, many women are the sole or primary earners in American households. Many more contribute significantly as secondary earners. Losing a job due to pregnancy discrimination has a grave impact on those families and their futures. Nonetheless, even in the face of state and federal laws, pregnancy discrimination claims have risen sharply. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reports that such claims are steadily climbing. Over the last decade, the EEOC has handled over 52,000 pregnancy cases, with damage payouts totaling $150.5 million.
Given the shocking increase in the number of pregnancy discrimination cases, the EEOC has made it a point, beginning in 2012, to target employers nationwide with a history of this type of discrimination and proactively filing more new lawsuits.
The commission’s goal is to educate and provide offenders with further guidance about the Act and to emphasize that it forbids firing, refusing to hire or discriminating, in any manner, against a pregnant worker. “Most larger companies are well aware of the provisions of this Act. Whether they follow those provisions is another matter. Smaller companies may not realize its depth and breadth,” added Coffey.
Learn more at http://www.employmentlawcounsel.com/
THE COFFEY LAW OFFICE, P.C.
351 W. Hubbard Street, Suite 602
Chicago, IL 60654
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