Some Pregnant Women Still Can’t Ask Their Boss for Water

During my last two pregnancies I was extremely fortunate to be my own boss. You may think this means I didn’t need to work at full capacity, but it is actually the opposite. I run a home-based daycare which is open 52.5 hours a week, so I work a minimum of 60 hours-a-week if you count set-up and clean-up time (not to mention the hours I spend shopping for supplies, food, etc. on the weekends).

Being pregnant was not an excuse to work less or be less dedicated. (Nor is it for most women I know.) I did my job well throughout my pregnancies. But, as my own boss, I was forgiving and patient. I allowed myself to sit as often as possible. I allowed myself to take extra breaks to eat and drink. I took advantage of naptime and rested. I was kind to myself in order to maintain my level of productivity. I knew that treating my pregnant self with understanding would sustain my commitment level, keep my baby healthy, and keep me going to the very end. (I kept my business open and running until I gave birth both times.)

I knew through experience that pregnancy, while not a disability, does sometimes require simple accommodations for a short period of time. It is not a weakness, but a fact of life.

The commonsense modifications I allowed myself were designed to give me the strength to work to the very end of my pregnancy. These are the same accommodations I allowed my assistant when she was pregnant. When a person is treated with fairness and sensitivity, the returns are immeasurable. Unfortunately, not every company or boss is as well versed in the needs of pregnant women.

I am always astounded when fairness and commonsense have to be legislated. Yet, so much of what I believe to be simple forms of “decency” and “humanity” requires the enforcement of our government. My question is why?

Why does a company need to be told that they cannot deny pregnant employees water or a stool to sit on in order to accommodate specific needs during pregnancy?

Why does an employer need to be told that they cannot fire a pregnant employee to avoid making any reasonable accommodations?

This should not be a discussion in 2012. Yet, in my e-mail today I was asked to send my representative in Congress a letter in support of The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. (H.R. 5647). The pre-written letter states:

“I urge you to support pregnant workers, by becoming a co-sponsor of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, H.R. 5647. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would require employers to make the same sorts of reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions that they do for disabilities, ensuring pregnant women can continue to do their jobs and support their families”

Are you kidding me? Why is this even a discussion? If the goal is to reduce the involvement of government in our everyday lives, then why do people refuse to do the right thing by others? If businesses would adopt and enforce internal codes of conduct that place value on integrity and fairness, then legislation wouldn’t be needed. Yet, this is not the world we live in right now.

According to the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), women are not only being denied simple accommodations during pregnancy, they are being fired for even asking.

Here are two examples as provided by NWLC:

  1. Heather Wiseman was a Wal-Mart sales floor associate. When she became pregnant, she began to suffer from urinary and bladder infections and started carrying a water bottle at work on her doctor’s advice to ensure she stayed hydrated. Because of a rule that only cashiers could have water bottles at work, she was terminated.
  2. Amanda Reeves, a pregnant truck driver, was instructed by her obstetrician not to lift more than 20 pounds and sought light duty work as her usual duties required her to lift up to 75 pounds. Her employer terminated her, as it made such modifications only to those injured on the job.

Too often values are pushed aside when discussing productivity and top line growth. Too often pregnant women are judged or stereotyped by others.

Yes, pregnancy is exhausting. I often found myself collapsing by 7:30 pm each night (and my pregnancies were normal and without complications). Yes, pregnancy is a commitment that affects women physically and emotionally, but this does not mean a pregnant woman is less valuable or unwilling to work. If your employee breaks his/her arm, do you fire them or do you temporarily accommodate their needs until they have healed? It should be the same for pregnant women. It should be done automatically. Unfortunately, it is not being done and women are unfairly losing their jobs and their ability to provide for their family.

Visit the National Women’s Law Center Fact Sheet on The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to learn more.

Did you need any accommodations during your pregnancy? How did your boss treat you when you were pregnant? Please leave a comment or continue the discussion on the Tiny Steps Mommy Facebook page.

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Comments

  1. It is a shame that humanity, logic and kindness have been deleted from our dictionary… or has it just been deleted from the job source employee handbooks? Or have employers decided that they don’t need a good, legal reason to terminate an employe? Soiunbds like a bunch of pending lawsuits to me.

    • You are completely right about the lack of logic and kindness in our world. Unfortunately, all of the cases listed on the NWLC fact sheet lost their cases in court because of a loophole within our current system. Technically companies are only mandated to make accommodations for people with disabilities. Since pregnancy is not considered a disability, an employer is not legally obligated to make any accommodations. It is especially sad, because this loophole is affecting women with low-wage jobs.

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