Even though the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was passed in 1978, there are still thousands of expecting mothers mistreated at work every year. Both new and experienced employers throughout the nation still do not know how to respond properly when one of their workers becomes pregnant.
Massachusetts recently recognized how prominent the issue is and passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) last year. As the state starts enforcing more protections for pregnant employees, it’s important to recognize which workers will need them.
Health care workers
Even though those who operate in the health care industry should be very familiar with the risks a pregnant woman faces at work, they don’t have the best track record when it comes to providing accommodations for their own doctors and nurses. According to the National Partnership for Women & Families, the health care and social assistance industry had the highest amount of charges for pregnancy discrimination filed with the EEOC between 2011 to 2015.
One major contributing factor is that it is a predominantly female-led industry, as nearly 80 percent of the workers during those years were women. Most of them also have physically demanding positions. They overexert their bodies lifting and transporting patients around the hospital, which can be a major workplace obstacle even when they aren’t pregnant.
Hundreds of workers in the retail industry also have horror stories on how their bosses quickly turned on them as soon as they revealed their pregnancy. Many of these employees also push their bodies too hard by lifting heavy objects and constantly moving around the store, but the places they work at usually should have an alternate position or the means to provide accommodations for those who want to continue working for the company.
Unfortunately, many employers refuse to use these resources. Since most employees in the retail industry are low-wage workers, some employers view them as expendable and believe it’s easier just to fire them rather than deal with all the issues that come with the pregnancy. Several mothers often experience this mistreatment when they develop a disease or disability during this time, making them lose more days at work and eventually their jobs altogether.
Educational services had also ranked high for charges of pregnancy discrimination filed with the EEOC between 2011 to 2015. Nearly 70 percent of the workers during that time were women. Many teachers state that their performance evaluation scores often drop shortly after their employers find out about the pregnancy and they either get demoted to part-time or don’t have their contracts renewed shortly afterwards. Some factors that may influence the school’s response to the news may include the timing in relation to the school year and the nature of the pregnancy (particularly if the school is affiliated with a certain religion).
Even though these industries have higher rates of pregnancy discrimination, any worker in Massachusetts could be at risk of facing this unacceptable behavior. It is important to know your rights at your workplace and someone who can help you file a claim for unfair working conditions if your employer puts you and your future child at risk.