Childbearing gets a little more bearable for working women this year, with various new state and city policies to accommodate the needs of pregnant and parenting workers.
In several states, including Delaware, Illinois, Minnesota and West Virginia, and several cities, workers can now request modest adjustments to their jobs due to pregnancy, with greater protection against employment discrimination. Though coverage of the laws may vary according to the size of the firm, these policies generally build on federal anti-discrimination protections by mandating “reasonable” accommodation for pregnancy-related conditions, unless the company can prove that doing so poses “undue hardship.”
Additionally, California and several cities, including New York, have adopted paid sick days policies, enabling workers—particularly single parents struggling in low-wage jobs—to take time off to tend to family medical needs, without sacrificing pay. Nationwide, three states and sixteen cities have passed paid sick days laws. At the same time, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families, “nearly four in 10 private sector workers can’t earn paid sick days.”
Broadly speaking, these policies represent a glacial shift in workplace culture from viewing pregnancy and family caregiving as a costly liability, to a recognition that workers need more than a paycheck to support their households over the course of life’s natural progression—progression that’s more open and diverse, but also more unstable, compared to the days of June Cleaver.
Hopefully, the policies will protect workers like Hilda Guzzman, who was forced to stand while working her cashier job at Dollar Tree until the bleeding and pain forced her into the emergency room. Surveys show that pregnant workers often can be accommodated with just minor adjustments, like extra bathroom breaks or time off for a prenatal care doctor’s visit—the biggest barrier seems to be the stubbornness of employers and the stereotypical notion that a pregnant woman is “not fit” for work.