Wednesday, May 9, 2012

New pregnancy legislation is unneeded; the law already requires accommodation of expecting employees

On the New York Times’s Motherlode blog, KJ Dell’Antonia discusses her belief that we need another law to protect pregnant women in the workplace:

Pregnancy is specifically not covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act, which requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees who need them to do their jobs…. But to have a healthy pregnancy, women must make adjustments—call them accommodations—for the baby they’re carrying…. Pregnant women are protected by the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, but protection against discrimination does not require accommodation. Sometimes equal treatment is not enough to allow a woman to stay on the job—and no one benefits from pregnant women being forced to choose between her doctor’s advice and her supervisor’s demands.

Ms. Dell’Antonia then lends her support to a nascent piece of federal legislation, The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

I take issue with Ms. Dell’Antonia’s central premise that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act does not require accommodations for pregnant workers. The PDA requires employers to treat pregnant employees the same (no better and no worse) as other employees based on their ability or inability to work. In other words, the law already requires that employers provide the same accommodations for an expectant worker that you do for any un-pregnant employee unable to perform his or her regular job duties.

Have you ever offered light duty to an employee returning from an injury? Have you ever reassigned job functions to assist an injured worker? Unless you are among the tiniest minority of employers that provides no accommodations for any employees’ medical issues or injuries, then the PDA already requires you to accommodate your employees’ pregnancies.

We do not need legislation to require an employer to make a reasonable accommodation for pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions. The PDA already implicitly allows for these accommodations. I’m not taking a stand against the rights of pregnant women (which I support). I am, however, taking a stand against duplicative legislation, regardless of the soundness of the policy or the worthiness of the beneficiary.