Pittsburgh Passes “Reasonable Accommodations” for Pregnant Workers

By Tara Murtha, WLP Staff

Pittsburgh City Council passed legislation that calls for “reasonable accommodations” for pregnant women who work for the city or city contracts, and bans discrimination against pregnant employees.

The ordinance, Reasonable Accommodations Due to Pregnancy, Childbirth or Related Medical Conditions, was introduced by councilmembers Dan Gilman and Deb Gross.

At a hearing introducing the bill last month, Gilman called the legislation “essential.”

“Many times women don’t know the rights they have,” Gilman said. “It’s an important opportunity to use the megaphone of city hall to tell all women in Western Pennsylvania that if you’re going to work for the city or do business with the city, you have a reasonable expectation of a healthy and vibrant pregnancy while working.”

The ordinance notes that “more than 35 years after the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) made it illegal to discriminate against a woman because of her pregnancy, women still face discrimination on the job when they become pregnant, especially in physically-demanding jobs.”

It also cites examples of discrimination from around the state, including a supermarket cashier in central PA who lost her job because she followed her doctor’s orders to carry a water bottle and a pregnant security guard denied a request to sit down part of her shift in downtown Pittsburgh.

Though the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 banned discrimination against pregnant workers, it does not address reasonable accommodations under all circumstances.

Women’s Law Project provided legal guidance and strongly supported the ordinance. Staff attorney Tara Pfeifer testified at a hearing earlier this month in support of the bill.

“At the Women’s Law Project, we have seen an increasing number of pregnant women contact us over the past few years because of the obstacles they face at work,” Pfeifer testified. “The majority of the women who have contacted us work in low-wage, physically demanding jobs, are having healthy pregnancies, and need only minor adjustments in the workplace as their pregnancies progress. “

As the ACLU noted, Pittsburgh City Council, unfortunately, doesn’t have the authority under state law to expand protections to pregnant women who work for private employers.

Earlier this year, Rep. Mark Painter and Senator Matt Smith introduced bills to extend similar protections to pregnant workers throughout the state as part of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health.

Both bills have been sitting in committee for months.

Pennsylvania is one of the top ten worst states for pregnancy discrimination, according to a 2008 report by the National Partnership for Women and Families.

In January, Philadelphia amended the Fair Practices Ordinance to provide reasonable accommodations protection for pregnant workers.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, Jr. has been calling for support of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would extend reasonable accommodations protection nationally.

According to a recent report in the Patriot News, “the bill has more than 30 co-sponsors and the support of President Barack Obama, but it has no bipartisan support. Casey said he’s doubtful, for that reason, that it will make it out of its committee this term.”

Contact Tara Murtha at tmurtha@womenslawproject.org or 215-928-5762 for more information or to speak with a Women’s Law Project attorney.

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The Women's Law Project creates a more just and equitable society by advancing the rights and status of all women throughout their lives. To this end, we engage in high-impact litigation, advocacy, and education.
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