Guest blogger: Protecting pregnant workers is a must
Posted on 07/10/15 in Work & Wages
No woman should ever have to choose between her job and her pregnancy. But that’s the choice some expectant mothers in Ohio are facing right now.
As a working mom of two young girls, I know firsthand the challenges women face in balancing their career, their family and all of life’s competing priorities.
But too many women in Ohio carry an unthinkable burden that no mother should have to bear -- pregnancy discrimination. Thanks to inadequate federal protection and no state law, it’s legal in Ohio to deny pregnant women reasonable workplace accommodations that let them work safely as they carry a child. Temporary relief from heavy lifting, being able to sit for a few minutes every couple of hours, or being able to go to the bathroom when you need to are basic things pregnant women need on the job, but all too often do not receive.
The story of one woman in particular, Peggy Young, inspired me to fight to end this injustice. Peggy worked for UPS while she was pregnant, and per her doctor’s orders to not lift anything heavier than 20 pounds, she requested temporary “light duty” -- an accommodation that had been given other workers who weren’t pregnant. But UPS denied Peggy’s request, forcing her to take unpaid leave and lose her company health care at a critical time for her health and the health of the child she was carrying. No pregnant mother should have to sue just to be able to avoid lifting 70-pound packages or losing her health insurance.
That's why Ohio needs to protect pregnant mothers on the job with a common-sense state law. More than 1,000 women have filed complaints with the state of Ohio alleging pregnancy discrimination. Check out www.ohiofamilyvalues.com, a resource for the initiative to end pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. Our campaign launched this week in Columbus (See the Cincinnati Enquirer story.)
Putting adequate protections in place for Ohio women isn't just the moral thing to do. It will also benefit the state's economy. Approximately 75 percent of the 68 million women working in the United States will become pregnant at some point in their lives, and they are staying on the job longer than in years past. Losing a job during a pregnancy negatively impacts long-term career paths, and pregnancy is the number one factor driving women into spells of poverty.
States around the country - including West Virginia and Illinois - have passed laws to ensure that women don't have to choose between the health of their child and their ability to pay the bills. It is time for Ohio's leaders to take action.
-- Amanda Hoyt
Amanda is senior communications strategist for Faith in Public Life.