The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (HR 5647), recently introduced in Congress, would require employers to make the same sorts of reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions that they do for disabilities, ensuring pregnant women can continue to do their jobs and support their families.Courts have interpreted existing laws to allow many employers to refuse to accommodate requests due to pregnancy alone (such as to avoid heavy lifting, or to stay off ladders, or to sit on a stool instead of standing at a cash register all day – or even to take extra water breaks). This is because pregnancy alone is not viewed as a disability under the ADA and therefore not does not require an employer to provide reasonable accommodations.
You can read the bill here and see the status of it here.
Last week, the Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded a District Court decision granting an employer’s motion for summary judgment in a Title VII and FMLA case. Makowski v. SmithAmundsen LLC, No. 10-3330 (November 9, 2011). The employee alleged that the employer (SmithAmundsen) eliminated her job during a "restructure" because of the her pregnancy and to interfere with the employee’s FMLA rights. Only two jobs where eliminated, one because of performance issues and hers because of her pregnancy and use of FMLA leave.
The Human Resources Director actually said to Makowski that "was let go because of the fact that [she] was pregnant . . . and took medical leave." However, the District Court (Judge Darrah) excluded the evidence as "hearsay." The Seventh Circuit held that the District Court erred in doing so because the evidence fell within an exception to hearsay - “admission.” While the Director was not personally involved in termination decision, the Director’s duties “encompass[ed] some responsibility related to ‘the decision making process’” affecting the termination. The Director here consulted with decision-makers leading up to Makowski’s termination decisions and she was responsible for compliance with federal anti-discrimination laws.