prego.jpgIf women stopped getting pregnant the world would eventually cease to exist. So why is it so hard to get equal rights for the pregos among us already?

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was signed into law in 1978 but it seems that wasn’t enough to stop employers from discriminating against pregnant workers.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, charges of pregnancy bias have been hovering at the 6,000 mark since 2007.

“A few employers have forgotten, or never learned, that it’s against the law to discriminate against women because of pregnancy,” David Lopez, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s general counsel, told me earlier this year during a public meeting about the problem.

So, what to do? What about yet another law?

Yesterday, a group of politicians introduced yet another bill, this one called the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

This from a press release about the Act:

Currently, pregnant working women around the country are being denied simple adjustments – permission to use a stool while working a cash register, or to carry a bottle of water to stay hydrated, or temporary reassignment to lighter duty tasks – that would keep them working and supporting their families while maintaining healthy pregnancies. The legislation will close legal loopholes and ensure that pregnant women are treated fairly on the job.

I think it’s great that politicians are taking up the cause of pregnant women, but I wonder what this law will do that the laws already on the books have been unable to do.

The Act calls for “requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers and preventing employers from forcing women out on leave when another reasonable accommodation would allow them to continue working.” And it also “bars employers from denying employment opportunities to women based on their need for reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.”

Pregnant women are also protected under the American With Disabilities Act if they face some sort of covered disability, or exacerbate a disability because of pregnancy. Just being pregnant is not viewed as a disability.

The problem comes when a pregnant woman faces something like having to go to the bathroom often, or needing to sit down for a while instead of standing all day. Such issues may not rise to the level of a disability and may not be covered under the ADA, said Christopher J. Kuczynski, Assistant Legal Counsel and Director of the ADA/GINA Policy Division for the EEOC.

And that’s where this new law could fill the discrimination donut hole.

But I can’t help but think the government needs a bigger stick not just more legislation to scare unscrupulous employers into complying.

Recently, an agriculture supply company worth billions, Olam Americas Inc., was charged with pregnancy discrimination by the EEOC and settled the case for $140,000.

I’m not sure that’s even a slap on the wrist. Sounds more like a poke on Facebook.

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