The Proposed Pregnant Workers Fairness Act May Affect Female Workers

Charles W. Miller & Associates

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was added to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ensure that women were not discriminated against while pregnant. The act prohibits employers from refusing to hire a woman because she is pregnant; requires an employer to treat a pregnant woman the same as someone with a different temporary disability if she is unable to work temporarily, and requires an employer to provide the same type of health insurance at the same rate as other employees.

But there are some issues that the current act does not cover, which is why legislators introduced a new bill called the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act in May 2012. This act would essentially afford pregnant women the same protections and flexibility that those with disabilities are given. Under the current act, many employers are not accommodating to pregnant women because they don’t have to be. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not cover pregnant women because they are not actually disabled, and some companies take advantage of the difference. Many cases illustrate this discrepancy. Noreen Farrell, executive director of Equal Rights Advocates (ERA) gives this example: “We see that male firefighters who throw out their backs are given desk jobs, but women who are pregnant don’t get them…There is an ability to provide accommodations, but employers don’t want to.”

Some women don’t even request an accommodation because they are afraid their boss will force them to take their paid time off guaranteed by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) too soon. If a woman takes off too soon, she may end up having to take unpaid time right before and after her delivery, something many families cannot afford. Others who have asked have been ignored or fired.

The proposed bill would provide a fairer, safer work environment for pregnant women in the following ways:

Pregnant women could request special accommodations as long as they were within reason. For example, they may be able to use a chair for certain periods of time if there job normally requires standing for extended lengths of time; or they may be relieved of their heavy lifting duties towards the end of their pregnancies.

If a pregnant woman made this type of reasonable request, an employer could not retaliate against her by firing her. Under this bill, it would be considered wrongful termination.

An employer could not force a pregnant woman to make changes to her job if she does not think it is necessary.

Pregnant employees could not be forced to take leave – paid or unpaid – so employers would not have to accommodate them.

As noted before, this is currently just a proposed bill, so it has not been enacted and cannot currently be enforced. However, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 is still in effect and offers some protection to pregnant women. If you have been discriminated against at work for any reason, you should contact a Kentucky workplace discrimination attorney. Charles W. Miller & Associates have helped workers throughout Kentucky and Indiana with their employment law issues.


Should Pregnant Women Be Accommodated in the Workplace? Time; Bonnie Rochman; May 11, 2012
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: Making Room for Pregnancy on the Job; National Women’s Law Center; May 2012

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