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Reasonable accommodation might just be a glass of water

June 14, 2013

The 1979 Pregnancy Discrimination Act provides just what the title suggests: protection from discrimination for working women who are pregnant. Specifically, the act amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include clarification that employment discrimination based on sex includes childbirth.

While this law has been in effect for several decades now, women are still discriminated against for having a baby. What is shocking about many of these discrimination situations is that they could have been avoided with minimal effort from an employer to provide reasonable accommodation — something a proposed federal law seeks to address.

Take the example of one woman who was brought into the emergency room after she collapsed at the workplace. Doctors determined that she had suffered from severe dehydration. This woman worked at a retail store but was prohibited from having a bottle of water while ringing up customers.

The co-president of an advocacy group called A Better Balance said that this situation is not uncommon. She said that while disabled workers are often granted significant accommodations under a respect for the Americans with Disabilities Act, pregnant women often only ask for meager accommodations such as “an extra bathroom break, a stool, a water bottle.”

A federal bill has been proposed that would make laws related to pregnancy discrimination include language that is more in line with the accommodation language in the Americans with Disabilities Act. In fact, it copies the exact language that “An employer must make a reasonable accommodation provided it’s not an undue hardship.”

Source: MPR News, “Pushed Off The Job While Pregnant,” Jennifer Ludden, June 11, 2013

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