Can You Be Fired for Pregnancy Complications?
Why it’s important for expectant mothers to know their rights
A lot of women have a rude awakening about their jobs when they get pregnant.
Long before it’s time to discuss eligibility for maternity leave, many female workers are forced to grapple with a more immediate issue. That is, their job duties could put their health – or that of their unborn children – at risk.
As we’ve discussed in previous blog posts, there are no federal laws that dictate specific job protections for the health and safety of pregnant women. Rather, job accommodations must be considered in light of amendments to the ADA, in which some pregnancy-related conditions may be treated as disabilities.
Unfortunately, this lack of clear-cut safeguards leaves many working women in vulnerable positions. If they aren’t informed about their rights, they may end up losing their jobs and their healthcare when they need it most.
Let’s take a look at how this may play out in the workplace and then discuss what pregnant women can do.
No Help for Expectant Mothers
Stories like Amy Potts’s aren’t uncommon.
According to a lawsuit that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently filed on her behalf, Potts became the victim of unlawful discrimination because of a complicated pregnancy.
Potts was an RN at a nursing home in Lititz, PA. After she became pregnant, she discovered she had a serious reproductive health issue that would make it impossible for her to carry her baby to full-term. She had surgery to address the issue, but was told that lifting anything over 25 pounds could jeopardize her pregnancy.
She brought a doctor’s note to her employer stating that she was able to work but that she would need to adhere to a lifting restriction to protect her pregnancy.
In her lawsuit, Potts alleges that her employer refused to modify her job – even though it routinely modified the jobs of non-pregnant employees who needed accommodations for other reasons.
Potts was put on indefinite, unpaid leave the same day she submitted her request. She was informed that she could re-apply for her position after she had her child and was free of lifting restrictions.
After Potts had her baby, she reapplied for her job. However, she was told she’d been terminated and that she’d need to provide documentation that she was free of lifting restrictions before she could be rehired. She did so, but the employer refused to rehire her.
Now she’s suing the company for unlawfully discriminating against her under the ADA.
Feds Are Cracking Down
Of course, every lawsuit requires a thorough examination of both parties’ arguments. This one has yet to work its way through the courts.
However, Potts’s allegations can be useful to illustrate how companies may unlawfully subject pregnant women to unfair treatment.
Earlier this year, the EEOC issued updated guidelines for employers stating that pregnancy-related conditions may be considered disabilities under the expanded ADA.
That means that some pregnant women may qualify for ADA protection, including the right to engage in an interactive process with her employer to seek out a job accommodation. Now Potts’ employer will have to defend its decision to terminate her in light of her potential disability.
Do You Qualify for ADA Protection?
It’s important to remember that the ADA does not contain a blanket list of disabilities. Rather, each person’s conditions and circumstances must be examined on a case-by-case basis.
Wading through federal regulations can be complicated. If you feel you’ve been unfairly denied a job accommodation due to a pregnancy-related condition, it may be a good idea to speak to an attorney who has experience fighting for workers’ rights under the ADA.
Email us at email@example.com, or call (267) 273-1054 for a free consultation.