Put the hook up on pregnancy and workplaces and you get a downward spiral of women’s employment opportunities. I’m talking workforce marginalization of pregnant women. That’s being fired, laid off, or passed up for promotion, essentially because you’re prego. There’s a history of it in this country and it continues on today.
When I was pregnant with my now 19 month old son, I couldn’t drink alcohol, eat brie or other soft cheeses. I couldn’t eat a whole list of fish, lift heavy objects, bungee jump (which I’ve never done anyway), or drink caffeinated coffee, but I never felt disabled. As the due date approached, bending over to pick things up was more difficult, so things that fell on the ground, sometimes stayed there, but that’s not being disabled. Right? I worked right up to the end, but I was lucky.
In the U.S., employers can force pregnant women out of the workplace when the pregnancy gets in the way of their job duties. Women have been fired for not being able to lift heavy objects, even when that was not a major part of their jobs. Women have been let go because they need to drink water while working and employees aren’t allowed to drink water while working in certain stores except on break. It seems like job duties are a great excuse to get rid of people. What I mean is: women are being fired for being pregnant and it’s completely legal.
An associate professor of law at the University of Dayton, Jeannette Cox, teaches employment discrimination. Her recent work analyzes civil rights and pregnancy and she makes the connection between being pregnant and being disabled.
On January 5th, she presented her paper “Pregnancy as ‘Disability’ and the Amended Americans with Disabilities Act,” at the American Association of Law Schools annual meeting in Washington.
She says that, “the ADA’s mandate to reimagine our social environment to accommodate historically excluded persons should encompass pregnancy.”
Women who are pregnant need to be able to have the same rights as people protected under ADA law because the effects of the pregnancy render them having different needs. This shouldn’t leave women out of the running for promotions or as candidates to lose their jobs.
Jeannette Cox says:
“The Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 broadened the ADA to include many short-term and relatively minor physical conditions. Pregnant women who experience comparable physical limitations should also have the opportunity to receive accommodations that will enable them to continue working.”
Women shouldn’t be limited in the workforce for bearing children. How about this: What if every time someone at a job knows someone who is pregnant, everyone who was ever in a womb will be fired. What? That’s not fair. That’s everyone.Well, this isn’t fair either. It should be illegal to fire the pregnant woman for being pregnant. But, it’s not just that, it’s re-inventing our patriarchal society. Valuing women and saying how can we accommodate women who are pregnant.
Cox says: “If American culture is to value pregnant women as legitimate wage earners, work polices should accommodate pregnancy’s physical effects. Accommodation rights for pregnant workers need to catch up to accommodation rights for persons with disabilities.”
Check out her article. She makes a really good argument. Powerful stuff: