What rights do pregnant workers have?

Posted at 1:31 PM, May 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-05 15:42:14-04

Maryland was the first of more than a dozen states to pass laws giving extra protection to pregnant workers, beginning in 2013.

The Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Workers Act, which was signed into law three years ago requires employers with 15 workers or more to provide accommodations to a pregnant employee, the same as they would for an employee with a disability.

Tonight @ 6: Allegations that an Annapolis employer fired a woman who was pregnant.

That could mean changing the employee’s work duties or hours, providing leave, transferring the employee to a less dangerous position if she requests that, or other accommodations, as long as they don’t represent an undue hardship to the employer.

It goes a step beyond the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which prohibits discrimination against pregnant women in terms of workplace activities such as hiring, firing and promotions. The federal law doesn't require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers.

The law became effective Oct. 1, 2013.

The National Women’s Law Center says Maryland is one of 17 states, plus Washington, D.C., that have passed laws to explicitly grant pregnant women the right to reasonable accommodations at work.

Eleven of those laws have been passed since 2013, with Maryland being the first in that wave, said Emily Martin, general counsel and vice president of workplace justice for the National Women’s Law Center.

She attributes that to the case of Young vs. UPS, which made it all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. In the case, Peggy Young, who was from Maryland, lost her employee medical coverage from UPS after she was unable to work due to a lifting restriction.

“That case really attracted a lot of attention,” Martin said.

The Supreme Court ruled in her favor, and a bill, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, is currently up for debate in U.S. Congress.

“It is not law yet, but hopefully it will be in the near term,” she said. 

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