A Wise Decision for Pregnant Women

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

An employee named Ann (a false name to protect her legal rights and privacy), who worked for UPS, had requested that she be given light work because she had become pregnant. She explained to her supervisor that because she was pregnant she was advised by her doctor to not lift anything more than 20 to 30 pounds. She received a horrible shock when her supervisor said, “go home—you’re useless to us right now.” Ann was placed on unpaid leave. To put it mildly this was an insult as well as injury. She simply wanted to have light duty like someone who had suffered a back injury or a veteran who had suffered from wounds in battle. But UPS did not do this for pregnant women. So she contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) with a legal complaint. Fortunately she did not have to take it to court.

UPS, now in the middle of a very major legal case before the U.S. Supreme Court, has changed its policies towards pregnant women. It will now allow pregnant women to do light duty to prevent harm or injury to women and their unborn children. Interestingly enough, the Illinois State Assembly passed a law, coming into effect on January 1st, that requires all employers—whether public or private—to give pregnant women light duty and not discriminate or fire women for their pregnancies. All of this are wise decisions. Pregnant women, like disabled workers or those who have been wounded in war, are vulnerable to discrimination from unscrupulous employers who will use excuses such as “poor attitude” or “unable to fulfill work duties” to demote and get rid of employees for a disability or enduring a medical condition. Pregnant women in too many ways have had to endure discrimination because they are limited in what they can do before their child(ren) is/are born.

I am glad that the State of Illinois has enacted a law that specifically protects pregnant women. With this law, pregnant women like Ann can now do light duty and still earn badly needed income for her family and her soon to be born baby. To have unfairly thrown her out of work would be both a travesty and a terrible economic burden to Ann and her family who would have to figure how to earn any money just to stay alive. Thankfully, very thankfully, this will not happen now since Illinois has clarified that pregnant women have and should have certain rights and protections from arbitrary and discriminating decisions. Since the ACLU contacted UPS on Ann’s case, Ann has been able to return to work and is now only doing light duty until her baby is born. It is a win-win situation for both American workers and the companies that employ them.

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