Pregnancy As Disability: Does This New Proposed Law Help or Hurt Women in the Workplace

by For Two Fitness January 08, 2012

Below is a piece from one of our favorite blogs,  We saw a similar piece on  just days ago.  It is a hot topic – is pregnancy a disability?  Sure, we know some pregnancies result in significant complications, and those may easily qualify.  But does each and every pregnant woman need legal protection and “disabled” status?  Read on and share you comments below…

Being pregnant can be hard. Maybe you sail through with a warm glow to your skin and a beautiful baby bump and no other side effects. Maybe.

That’s not the experience most of us have. We’re fatigued and nauseated. Food won’t stay down. We gain weight and lose mobility. We can have pelvic problems that make it hard to walk and dizzy spells that make it hard to drive.

But are we disabled when we’re carrying children?

Some people think so. There’s a movement afoot to extend the Americans with Disabilities Act to include pregnant women.

Before you leap up in outrage at the idea that pregnant women might be considered disabled, think about what the legal protection would mean.

As the University of Dayton law professor spearheading this points out, being protected under the ADA would ensure pregnant women are accommodated on the job. The Dayton newspaper writes :

“The designation would mean requirements for employers, and job security for pregnant employees. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers would be required to accommodate pregnant workers in small ways, such as the ability to be put on light duty if necessary, drink water on the job, and take more restroom breaks.”

That all sounds great, and it’s true that pregnant women do need more family-friendly legal policies and workplace rules. Is this the best way to get it though? For the first months of pregnancy a woman isn’t even showing, but is often feeling nauseated and fatigued. Would I have to produce a pregnancy test to get extra potty breaks during my shift?

Whether expanding the ADA is the right way to approach the problem or not, it’s clear that working pregnant women often have a problem getting fair treatment from their employers. They do need accommodations they don’t need at other times, whether that’s extra breaks to deal with nausea or lighter physical work in the later trimesters when just walking can become difficult.

Linda Sharps at The Stir doesn’t like the idea of putting pregnant women under the ADA’s protection. She writes:

“It seems well-intentioned … and also like one hell of a slippery slope. For most of us, pregnancy is a normal, healthy condition, not a disability. If a pregnant women develops a disabling condition, that’s one thing, but labeling every pregnancy as a physical impairment seems like the wrong thing to do.”

A comment from a Stir reader goes on:
“Being pregnant is NOT a disability! I swear some days I can’t tell where we women stand as far as equal rights go.  Do we want equal rights or special rights? I worked through both my pregnacies up until days before give birth and yes, I was extra tired, my feet were swollen and hurt all day, I had to pee every 10 minutes and could have used a nap every hour on the hour. I didn’t demand anything extra from my boss because it was my choice to get pregnany (for all you feminist…your body, your choice…right?) If I couldn’t have handled it, I would have quit my job. What? you can’t afford to quit your job? Again, your choice.  Life is all about you making the right choices for you…”

Another says:
“You know, stuff like this is the reason why women are less valuable than men in the workplace.  People are going to jump all over me for saying so, and I’ll be accused of being a hater, but all the labels you want to slap on me don’t change the fact that women are harmed more than helped by “accomodations in the workplace”.  That’s why women are still earning only ~75% as much as men, with all other factors being equal – accomodations are pricey, and it comes right out of your pay.”

What do you think? Should pregnancy be considered a disability?  Do we really need laws like this to ensure fair and compassionate work environments?  


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