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Report finds pregnant workers routinely denied accommodations

A new report finds that pregnant workers in Missouri and around the nation are routinely denied the basic accommodations they need to keep working during their pregnancies and often end up losing their jobs as a result. The study by the National Women's Law Center and worker advocate organization A Better Balance finds workplace discrimination against pregnant workers is especially prevalent in low-paying jobs. These are the jobs that tend to be more physically demanding, such as cashier positions that require workers to be on their feet up to 10 hours a day, and thus require a greater level of accommodation.

Lawsuits for pregnancy discrimination are on the rise around the nation. Examples cited in the report include a fast food worker who was fired after being denied permission to drink water and eat snacks while on break, a grocery store employee who was denied a transfer request and then fired, a truck driver who was told she presented too much of a liability to keep working while pregnant before losing her job and her medical insurance, and a cashier who was denied the ability to sit down while working and was forced to take leave without pay.

There are several laws at the national level, including the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, that provide protections for pregnant employees. Eight states also have laws protecting pregnant workers. According to the new report, these laws often are misinterpreted and not applied.

In their report, the National Women's Law Center and A Better Balance are urging passage of a new law, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would require employers to accommodate pregnant workers. The law first was introduced in Congress in 2012 and again in 2013. The report also urges the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to provide clearer guidance and more enforcement of the existing laws.

Source: CBS News, "Report: Pregnant workers face routine discrimination", Stephen Smith, June 18, 2013

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