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Cases may help clarify pregnancy discrimination laws: part one

In 1978, Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) to help prevent and prosecute discriminatory behavior by the employers of pregnant women. The PDA prohibits employers from treating pregnant women differently from other employees in a similar position.

Then, in 2008, Congress amended the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to expand the definition of disability to cover pregnancy discrimination as well. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued regulations to accommodate that change a few years later. Both of these laws were valuable steps in protecting the rights of pregnant women in the workplace. Now two cases brought by the EEOC could help clarify them to further protect pregnant women's employment rights.

In one case, a cleaner at a hospital became pregnant and, in the 23rd week of her pregnancy, began to suffer from related carpal tunnel syndrome. She had a note from a chiropractic neurologist requesting that the lifting requirements at her job be loosened and that her heavy lifting be assigned to someone else. However, the hospital said they needed the note from an obstetrician, despite the fact that the obstetrician had said a neurologist would be the appropriate person to diagnose and request accommodations for this condition.

Litigating this case and ones like it actually became more confusing under the new ADA regulations issued by the EEOC. Now many cases of pregnancy discrimination also involve disability discrimination and the outcome of this case could affect how these cases are litigated in the future.

Next week we'll discuss a second case that could help Minnesota workers detect instances of pregnancy discrimination and, hopefully, seek redress for those wrongs in court. If you believe that you have been discriminated against on the basis of your pregnancy or familial status you may be able to file a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In addition, it is always wise to speak with an attorney who can help you protect your interests and pursue any appropriate civil claims.

Source: Reuters News & Insight, "Two new cases seek to clarify pregnancy discrimination laws," Anna Louie Sussman, April 1, 2013

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