Miscarried from Pregnancy Discrimination at Work? What are Your Options?

Pregnant woman driving forklift in concrete factory while looking worker

Losing a baby is one of the worst feelings in the world. No legal case will bring your child back after you miscarried from pregnancy discrimination. But you may have options to receive compensation that could help with medical costs, time off work, and other damages related to the loss of your child.

In this post, I will review a New York Times report of a shipping warehouse where women miscarried from pregnancy discrimination at work. I will review the options available for pregnant women to seek accommodations for their limited physical abilities while carrying their child. And I will explain what they can do if pregnancy discrimination causes them physical harm, or miscarriage.

Shipping Warehouse has a History of Women Who Miscarried from Pregnancy Discrimination

In its article, “Miscarrying at Work: The Physical Toll of Pregnancy Discrimination” the New York Times reported on a shipping warehouse contracted to provide cell phones for Verizon. The warehouse, near the Tennessee/Mississippi border, has a history of problems with pregnancy discrimination. The Times described the scene:

“If you are a Verizon customer on the East Coast, odds are good that your cellphone or tablet arrived by way of a beige, windowless warehouse near Tennessee’s border with Mississippi.

“Inside, hundreds of workers, many of them women, lift and drag boxes weighing up to 45 pounds, filled with iPhones and other gadgets. There is no air-conditioning on the floor of the warehouse, which is owned and operated by a contractor. Temperatures there can rise past 100 degrees. Workers often faint, according to interviews with 20 current and former employees.”

It was in that setting that Erica Hayes, age 23, miscarried from pregnancy discrimination. She was in her second trimester of her first pregnancy. She had asked her supervisor to give her a lighter assignment, but her boss repeatedly said no. Then, in January 2014, after a eight-hour shift lifting some of the heaviest boxes in the building, Hayes lost her baby in the warehouse bathroom.

The Times reports that three other women in the warehouse also had miscarriages that year. All of them had asked for light duty. Some even brought in doctors’ notes recommending lighter work or shorter shifts. But their requests were ignored or denied.

Pregnancy Discrimination at Work is Illegal

Federal law prohibits pregnancy discrimination at work. The law prohibits employers from basing any part of employment on a woman’s pregnancy. That includes hiring, firing, and assignments on the job. When a woman’s pregnancy or childbirth temporarily makes her unable to do her work for medical reasons, the employer must treat her just like any other temporarily disabled employee. Depending on the policies at work, this may include:

  • Paid time off
  • Unpaid leave
  • Light duty
  • Alternate assignments
  • Other reasonable workplace accommodations

The New York Times stopped there in its reporting on miscarriage at work. It took the position that women in physically demanding jobs are not protected from physical injury during their pregnancy. But that is not entirely true. Pregnant women also have rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

ADA Protects Pregnant Women in Physically Demanding Jobs

Many of the medical conditions that come with pregnancy are considered disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act. If a pregnant mother can demonstrate a medical disability, her employer may be required to provide reasonable accommodations for that disability. As long as it does not create an undue hardship or significant difficulty or expense for her employer, she can request adjustments to her work based on her medical need. Depending on the facts in her case, a pregnant mother may also have a claim for gender discrimination or violations of the Equal Pay Act related to pregnancy discrimination.

When women are denied reasonable accommodations for their pregnancy-related disabilities, they may be able to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or in federal court. When the denial has caused serious physical harm, or if you have miscarried from pregnancy discrimination suffered at work, your employer may be required to compensate you for damage caused by its decision to refuse accommodations.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act may not require your employer to go above and beyond company policy to accommodate your medical needs during your pregnancy. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have options. At Eisenberg & Baum, LLP, our experienced gender discrimination attorneys know how to weave those laws together to create a safety net for our clients, and help them be compensated if they miscarried from pregnancy discrimination. We will review your case and help you decide when and how to file a complaint. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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