If you're an employed pregnant woman, you may assume that if you have special needs, your employer will accommodate you. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

It's a sad reality that employers in most states are not specifically required to accommodate pregnant workers, especially since non-pregnant injured workers are often catered to. The National Women's Law Center has released a report that highlights the state of employment for many pregnant women — and the unpaid leave and loss of benefits they are forced to endure if their employer doesn't wish to help them out.

Specific laws

If a woman requests special accommodations due to her pregnancy, she might be forced to choose between taking unpaid leave and the health of herself or her baby.

You might be surprised to find out that only eight states have laws that specifically protect pregnant workers — Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland and Texas. This means that if a woman requests special accommodations due to her pregnancy, she might be forced to choose between taking unpaid leave and the health of herself or her baby.

The National Women's Law Center has issued a report on the state of pregnant workers in the nation, and it's often the women who work in low-wage or nontraditional jobs who find themselves falling through the legal cracks. Despite the Americans with Disabilities Act, which states that workers with temporary disabilities must be accommodated, and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which says that pregnant workers should be treated like others, pregnant moms are still finding themselves forced to make a decision they shouldn't have to.

Reasonable accommodations

A pregnant woman might request a stool for her cashier job, for example, or to be reassigned in order to avoid heavy lifting that might compromise her pregnancy or her back. While many employers are happy to work with a pregnant woman and her specific needs, some blow off her requests and these women find themselves facing a terrible choice — continue to work in a potentially dangerous position, or take leave. Sometimes they are even terminated.

Even though she begged to work, and even though other employees who are disabled are allowed to go on light duty, she was told that she was too much of a liability and was forced to take unpaid leave. She lost her medical insurance and her family suffered financially.

The personal stories in NWLC's report are terribly difficult to read. For example, Peggy Young worked as an early morning air driver for UPS, and when she became pregnant, her superiors refused to consider any accommodations at all. Even though she begged to work, and even though other employees who are disabled are allowed to go on light duty, she was told that she was too much of a liability and was forced to take unpaid leave. She lost her medical insurance and her family suffered financially. She sued UPS and lost and has asked the Supreme Court to review her case.

What can we do?

You can tell the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that they need to issue clear guidance to employers about reasonable accommodations for the pregnant workers who need them — click here to fill out an easy form to send in. Share the report with anyone you feel could benefit — your employer, a friend who you feel is being discriminated against, your friends and your family members. Check out the NWLC's resource page which has a ton of important information for pregnant women and those who care about them.

Also, you can spread awareness that this is an issue — many people have no idea that pregnant women are still being discriminated against. Pregnancy isn't a disability, but pregnant women who need accommodations deserve to have the same treatment that other workers are entitled to.

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