Posted on May 1, 2013 Issues: Pregnancy, Parenting & the Workplace Workplace

(Washington, D.C.)  Tallahassee Memorial Hospital and Amy Crosby, a 30-year-old pregnant hospital cleaner in Tallahassee, Florida, have amicably resolved a complaint filed on Crosby’s behalf by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) last month with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  Crosby was forced to take unpaid leave when the hospital refused to accommodate her doctor’s request that she not lift more than 20 pounds because of her pregnancy.

“We are encouraged that the hospital and Amy Crosby have been able to resolve this matter,” said Emily Martin, NWLC Vice President and General Counsel.  “While the specific terms of the agreement are confidential, we are very pleased that as a result of their cooperation, Amy will be able to continue to work at the hospital.  But it’s important to take note of the countless other pregnant women across the country—especially those working in low-wage jobs—who face discrimination on the job when they simply need a small adjustment or accommodation that would allow them to keep working.  These women are often forced out on unpaid leave or simply fired, at the very moment they’re relying on their income and job security.”

As her EEOC complaint explained, Crosby was 23 weeks pregnant when she asked the hospital to accommodate a doctor-imposed lifting restriction, but the hospital refused and instead forced her onto unpaid leave.  The Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires employers to make accommodations for pregnant workers when they make accommodations for workers with similar limitations.  Other co-workers on the cleaning staff at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital were granted similar requests and transferred to lighter duty when they had temporary physical disabilities or on-the-job injuries, but Crosby’s supervisor told her that the hospital does not make accommodations for its pregnant workers.  Despite her desire to continue working with an adjustment in her job duties, Crosby was sent home on unpaid leave the same day she made her request and was later informed that she would be terminated if she did not return to work without restrictions by April 11, more than a month before her baby was due.   

“I’m relieved that the hospital and I were able to work together to come to a good resolution and as a result, my job is secure,” said Amy Crosby.  “This has given me peace of mind that will allow me to prepare for my baby’s birth next month.  But I worry that other women in a similar situation will have no place to turn.  I look forward to the day when no pregnant woman has to go through what I went through.”

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires employers to extend the accommodations they provide workers with disabilities to their pregnant employees.  This means that pregnant workers who are limited in their ability to do their job because of their pregnancy cannot be treated worse than non-pregnant workers with temporary disabilities or other similar physical limitations.  The Americans With Disabilities Act, as amended in 2008, requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for a broad range of temporary disabilities, including, for example, a back injury that prevents an employee from lifting 20 pounds for a few months.  Because pregnant employees must be treated just as well as others with similar limitations, pregnant workers with lifting restrictions must also be provided reasonable accommodations when an employer can make the adjustments without undue hardship.