Thursday, December 11, 2014

Working While Pregnant: Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace (#GenderEquity)

English: United States Supreme Court building ...
English: United States Supreme Court building in Washington D.C., USA. Front facade. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pregnancy discrimination was officially outlawed with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA). That law stands for the proposition that women can not be discriminated against for pregnancy or pregnancy related conditions. As a woman and a former employment lawyer I understand that the existence of that law alone does not mean that discrimination no longer occurs.


Pregnancy Discrimination Still Occurs

As a lawyer, I stay abreast of upcoming Supreme Court cases. I don't discuss most on this blog because they tend to be rather boring or at least irrelevant to the issues of interest to my blog readers. However, it seems important to discuss cases that relate to working moms especially When there's a case that is directly relevant to a woman's ability to continue working while pregnant.

The day before I delivered my son
Because of the ongoing discrimination that pregnant women face in the workforce, the United States Supreme Court will confront the issue head on with an upcoming case, Peggy Young v. United Parcel Service (UPS).  In this case Young was employed as a part-time driver for UPS. After she became pregnant her doctor restricted the amount of weight she was permitted to lift. She applied for light duty under the existing UPS policies and was denied. She has been litigating ever since. 



I'll reserve comment about my opinions of this case for a variety of reasons. However, it bears mention that the reason this case is before the Supreme Court is because even when you have a law like the PDA reasonable minds may differ about what that law means. Indeed, cases that are clear cut are not brought before the Supreme Court because they are either easily resolved in the courts below or the Supreme Court simply refuses to take them. 

The fact that the court accepted this case indicates that they believe that the application of the law requires some clarity. As a lawyer, I am interested in learning what they decide. And as a woman, I am very disappointed that there is a need for the Supreme Court to provide that clarity.


Workplace protections remain necessary


Working While Pregnant


Indeed, cases like this remind me of my own good fortune. I have managed to successfully navigate two pregnancies while working and it is something that I do not take for granted. I have been blessed to have an understanding supervisor, work in an environment where policies exist and have a job that requires me to use my brain and not my body. 

I remain an advocate for the challenges that professional working women confront in the workforce, because those challenges are real. That said, I am incredibly grateful that I have never had to choose between my health, my baby's safety and providing for my family. While I still question my ability to "do it all", I was able to work while pregnant and that made all of the difference. 

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