The Delaware House of Representatives last week followed the Delaware Senate in passing a bill to protect pregnant workers from discrimination. It now goes to Delaware Governor Jack Markell to sign.

The Delaware bill prohibits employers from firing or otherwise penalizing pregnant employees who need reasonable accommodations to perform their jobs, and requires employers to grant reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers, such as allowing these workers to use a stool, drink water on the job, or avoid heavy lifting. Employers will also be unable to force pregnant employees onto unpaid leave. The state’s House of Representatives unanimously passed the bill about a week after the White House Summit on Working Families, during which President Barack Obama urged Congress to pass the federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

“Right now, if you’re pregnant you could potentially get fired for taking too many bathroom breaks — clearly from a boss who has never been pregnant — or forced unpaid leave,” President Obama remarked at the Summit. “That makes no sense.”

The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was passed in 1978 to prevent employers from legally discriminating against pregnant women in hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, career development, or benefits, yet pregnancy discrimination in the workplace still persists. A report released last summer by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) demonstrates that many pregnant women are not given even basic accommodations during pregnancy, and many pregnant workers-especially those in lower-paying jobs or jobs traditionally held by men-are fired or forced to take unpaid leave when they request these adjustments. 

Just last week, the US Supreme Court agreed to hear Young v. United Parcel Service, a case that may help determine whether the PDA requires an employer to provide workplace accommodations to pregnant employees.

Media Resources: ThinkProgress, 7/2/2014; Feminist Newswire 7/3/14; National Women’s Law Center 5/14, 6/18/13; WhiteHouse.gov, 6/23/2014

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