Health and Safety

Legislation Needed to Protect Pregnant Workers

December 9, 2014
By Stephanie West

Long Island, NY – On December 4th the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the pregnancy discrimination case, Young v. UPS. Young’s story highlights a critical issue that women face on the job: protect her health or her paycheck.

Young was pushed onto unpaid leave from her job after she requested a doctor-advised reprieve from heavy lifting for the health of her pregnancy. UPS denied Young’s request because of a company-wide policy, which stated that light duty would not be given to workers with certain medical conditions, such as pregnancy. However, the policy did provide light duty work to many other classes of employees, such as those who were injured on-the-job or those with disabilities.

Young was forced to make an impossible choice: protect her health or her paycheck. This is a choice no woman should have to make. Women deserve equal treatment and nothing less.

In light of the impending decision in the UPS case, unions and community groups across the state are calling for New York State lawmakers to address the failure to protect pregnant women in the workplace.
Legislation is needed to ensure that pregnant women are able to stay healthy on-the-job and secure women’s access to reproductive healthcare.

“Women in New York face unfair treatment in the workplace and barriers to equality every day,” said Corinne Carey, Assistant Legislative Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “This needs to be the first thing state lawmakers take action on in 2015. And if there is a special session, then women’s equality should be at the top of the agenda.”

There has been great momentum in the last year with multiple states and localities, including West Virginia, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, passing stronger measures to ensure reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers who need them. A similar law in New York City went into effect earlier this year, but New York State lags behind, leaving those outside the five boroughs without explicit statutory protection.

“Unfortunately, Peggy Young’s story is not an isolated instance – and no woman should have to suffer the financial hardship she endured simply to maintain a healthy pregnancy. We see this problem all the time in our free legal clinic for New Yorkers—pregnant women are pushed out of their jobs when they just need a modest accommodation to stay healthy and employed,” said Dina Bakst, Co-Founder & Co-President of A Better Balance. “We are calling for immediate state legislative action in New York because we see firsthand the economic consequences that occur when women are pushed out of their jobs right when they need income the most to support their families.”

December 8, 2014

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