It is more common for pregnant women in California and beyond to work outside the home than in generations past. The federal government has dealt with workplace discrimination against pregnancy since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The original act did not include pregnant women in its list of protected individuals, and for almost 15 years women struggled to convince Congress to amend the law. Finally, in 1978, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was enacted to protect women from losing their positions simply because they were expecting.
However, because the law did not require accommodations for conditions women face when pregnant, many were still penalized for missing work due to doctor visits, morning sickness and recovery after delivery. Thirty years after the PDA was passed, the Americans with Disabilities Act went a little further by including pregnancy-related conditions in its definition of disabilities. While this amendment made conditions like anemia, preeclampsia and depression more acceptable as conditions needing accommodations, any woman who experienced a normal pregnancy free from those complications could not always expect reasonable accommodations.
Some of the accommodations pregnant women request include altered schedules for rest and bathroom breaks, a manager’s consent to stand or sit when needed or even modifications to allow work from home. Of course, time off for childbirth and recovery will be necessary, and the federal Family Medical Leave Act requires most businesses to allow. However, that time is unpaid, and many parents cannot afford to lose the money.
The federal laws are the minimum standards a person can expect on the job. In California and across the country, state laws enacted to accommodate pregnant women may go beyond those provided by Congress. A person’s attorney will be able to inform her of the allowances her employer should be making and to guide her in the steps to take if she is facing workplace discrimination due to her pregnancy.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Expecting a Baby? Know Your Workplace Rights“, Nina Martinez, Oct. 5, 2016