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Pregnant Pa. women continue to face workplace discrimination

As we often discuss in this Pittsburgh Employment Law Blog, although significant strides have been made in order to provide equal rights to women in the workplace, women continue to face discrimination in the workplace in the 21st century. One unfair employment obstacle that many women confront here in Pennsylvania is that of pregnancy discrimination.

Under federal law, women cannot be discriminated against on the basis of pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions. Additionally, all parents are allowed up to 12 weeks off for the birth or adoption of a child or to care for an ill child. A number of employers, however, attempt to skirt these obligations by refusing to hire pregnant women or firing pregnant employees.

Pregnancy discrimination is a very significant problem that affects a number of families in the commonwealth.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently reported that last year the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission fielded 171 pregnancy discrimination complaints from our state. The agency took in 3,779 complaints nationwide.

A bill has been introduced in both the House and Senate here in Pennsylvania that attempts to close some of the loopholes in anti-discrimination laws that have allowed some employers to get away with pregnancy discrimination in the past.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would require employers to make accommodations for pregnant employees, within reason. Such an accommodation might be a reassignment of lifting duties or an adjusted schedule.

This bill would also bar employers from forcing pregnant women to take leave when they do not want to do so.

While the future of that bill remains unclear, those who have been discriminated against in employment because of pregnancy might still be able to seek legal recourse. Employers that ignore anti-discrimination laws can and should be held accountable for their actions.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Job bias against pregnant women protested," Jessica Contrera, June 24, 2013

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