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Pregnancy Discrimination still a problem in the U.S.

For some women, pregnancy is an exciting time, with great anticipation as they await the arrival of their child. They suffer minimal morning sickness, labor proceeds normally and they have a straightforward delivery. For others, it can be anything but simple and straightforward. And then there is work.

The overlay of work for a woman with a more complex pregnancy can make for a much more unpleasant experience than simply being sick in the morning. For many women, it can cost them their job, when in addition to their morning sickness, they suffer from a case of pregnancy discrimination.

In spite of the presence of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which nominally prohibits discrimination against pregnant women, that kind of discrimination is alive and well.

In a commentary on the Huffington Post, Joan Williams, notes that employers with pregnant women "will fire them rather than permit more frequent bathroom breaks, place them on light duty, change their shifts or allow them to work in departments that are 'always looking for help'."

The difficulty with bringing a successful employment discrimination lawsuit is that employers have learned to be careful to construct seemingly "gender neutral" policies that on their face don't appear intentionally target pregnant women.

Williams argues we need to adopt provisions that would extend protection with the Pregnant Workers' Fairness Act. In essence, this would require employers to accommodate pregnant women in a fashion similar to how disabilities are treated under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

While it is arguable that prior amendments should already make many pregnancy related conditions subject to accommodation, it is clear that many employers and some courts could benefit from increased clarity on this subject.

Source: The Huffington Post, "American Women Deserve the 'Kate Treatment'," Joan Williams, December 5, 2012

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