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New law protects pregnant women from employment discrimination

By one estimate, 75 percent of women in the labor force will be pregnant and working at the same time, at some point in their careers. Many mothers-to-be are able to keep working, with few restrictions, right up until they give birth. But others need some accommodations. Perhaps they are not able to lift heavy objects, or stay on their feet as long as they could when they are not pregnant.

Several employers are understanding and accommodating with their pregnant workers, but unlike for disabled employees, there is no law requiring them to do so. Many workers in New Jersey and elsewhere have endured employment discrimination against because of their status as pregnant women. They have been forced to continue working in unsafe conditions, or forced to leave their jobs entirely.

One woman who worked for UPS was told by her midwife not to lift more than 20 pounds while she was pregnant. She asked UPS to be put on light duty during the pregnancy, but the company refused, even though it regularly did so for employees injured on the job.

Instead, UPS forced her to go on unpaid leave for more than six months. Besides the lost income, the woman also lost her health insurance.

A new law will hopefully help protect pregnant workers in New Jersey. The state Senate unanimously passed the anti-pregnancy discrimination bill in November; the Assembly passed it 77 to 1 on Jan. 6. And on Jan. 21, Gov. Chris Christie signed the bill into law, according to Care2.com. The law clarifies existing employment discrimination law to include pregnancy discrimination against employees.

Source: Asbury Park Press, “ MARTIN: Law would ensure fairness for pregnant workers,” Emily Martin, Jan. 10, 2014

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