We love motherhood. We just don’t like the inconvenience.

ProPublica has a review of a case that is being heard by the US Supreme Court today in which a woman driver for UPS was forced to take seven months unpaid leave, losing her health benefits in the process, because she requested that she not be asked to lift weights greater than 20 lbs during her pregnancy, as advised by her doctor, even though her job description requires her to be able to lift 70 lbs. However her normal duties rarely required her to do so and a colleague had said that he was willing to step in when necessary.

But UPS said that allowing this would mean that she was being given an unfair advantage over other employees.

UPS, for its part, argues that its actions violated no laws, and that it afforded equal treatment to all its personnel, pregnant or not. Under the Pregnancy Disability Act, employers are required to treat expectant and new mothers the same as employees who are “similar in their ability or inability to work” — not to treat them better, the company says.

(You can read the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 here. Lyle Denniston also has an extensive analysis of the case.)

I just cannot get into the minds of companies and managers who think this way. Showing a little flexibility and consideration for the needs of pregnant employees seems to me to be a no-brainer because you get happier and more loyal employees, and yet it seems to be inconceivable to these people.

A recent study by the National Partnership for Women & Families found that many pregnant women are denied even the simplest accommodations, such as extra bathroom breaks; since the Pregnancy Discrimination Act became law, the percentage of expectant and new mothers who report being fired or laid off from their jobs has actually grown, notes a new report by the San Francisco–based public interest lawfirm Equal Rights Advocates.

Yes, we know how all those lazy women will go out and get pregnant just so as to claim those cushy little benefits.

I am also not hopeful about the chances of success at the Supreme Court since this court has already shown itself to be hostile to the rights of women.

For all the lip service given to the wonders of motherhood as a high concept, this country can’t seem to make up its mind when it comes to actual mothers. On the one hand they object to women having easy and cheap access to contraception because of the belief that having sex without the possibility of becoming pregnant somehow leads to immorality, and on the other hand seem to think that pregnant women are a nuisance to have around and must be discouraged from becoming so.


  1. doublereed says

    ACLU article on this case.

    The ACLU contends that pregnancy should be considered a temporary disability for the purposes of the Americans with Disabilities Act. While at the Federal level this is still contested, several states have enacted laws to protect against Pregnancy Discrimination.

    It really is disturbing to see just how ridiculously petty employers are. Most of these accommodations are just monumentally simple things.

  2. moarscienceplz says

    What’s even more ridiculous is that UPS has changed their policy. Probably because of all the bad publicity, they decided they will offer light duties to pregnant women from now on. So why not just drop objection to the suit?

  3. Katydid says

    I worked for my company for six years before becoming pregnant. Because I’d heard so many horror stories from fellow women about “lost” paperwork and “misfiled” paperwork that led to the baby not being covered under the medical plan, I called HR to document my condition and confirm their short-term disability coverage for after the birth itself. The (woman) HR manager informed me huffily that pregnancy didn’t qualify for coverage because it was a “self-inflicted wound”. I pointed out that a male colleague was paid for six months after a ski trip gone horribly wrong, and that the ski trip was certainly a voluntary activity. I was notified that pregnancy was “different” because “you ladies are so irresponsible” (I was a 30-year-old, married woman with an impeccable work record and zero sick days taken up to that point).

    Also, it’s stunning the anti-pregnancy discrimination coming from those who claim to be “pro-life”.

  4. moarscienceplz says

    Also, it’s stunning the anti-pregnancy discrimination coming from those who claim to be “pro-life”.

    That’s because they are not really pro-life, they are anti-sex.

  5. Matthew Penfold says

    Employers have a moral duty (and in more enlightened countries a legal one as well) to make reasonable accommodation for people who are currently unable to carry out all parts of the job because of a health problem (and I would count pregnancy as a health problem in this context).

    If there person becomes permanently unable to carry out their current job, then an employer should do everything possible to find them a suitable position within the company.

  6. AndrewD says

    As I understand English Law (IANL), Discrimination on the grounds of Pregnancy is Sex Discrinination (for obvious reasons) and the penaltiesthese offences are more severe than for Employment offences.

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