I worked in various jobs at a supermarket in New York City for 11 years. When I first became pregnant in 2005, I didn’t ask for any accommodations because I was scared I would lose my job. My job included heavy lifting, and I was worried the whole time about my health and my baby’s health. I’m grateful that I had a healthy pregnancy and gave birth to my first daughter.
In 2007 when I became pregnant again, I told my manager and asked not to do any heavy lifting. He actually responded by giving me more heavy lifting to do. I think he hoped I would quit.
Sadly, I miscarried and suffered a series of miscarriages before finding out I had a blood clotting disorder. After learning about this problem, the next time I got pregnant in 2010 I received treatment for the disorder and turned in a doctor’s note to my boss with a lifting restriction. The note also said I should take breaks when I was tired and that I shouldn’t constantly go up and down stairs. I was working as a helper in the bakery at that time. My employer told me there was no job for me with those limitations, but I know there was work I could have done, like working in the deli. Another coworker who originally worked as a cashier had a shoulder problem and they accommodated her by transferring her to a position restocking items on the floor. I wanted to get a transfer too and continue working.
Instead, they fired me. I’m lucky that my union was able to help me get disability payments for 26 weeks and eventually helped me get reinstated so I could go back to work after my baby was born. Unfortunately, the disability payments were only a fraction of my usual salary. After the 26 weeks were up, a month before my due date, I had to go on unpaid leave. I lost my health insurance and had to go on Medicaid. My family and I survived on food stamps and my savings. When I finally returned to work three months after giving birth, I had no savings left.
Yvette recently left the supermarket because of childcare issues. She is currently looking for work so she can support her family. Yvette remains hopeful that she will find a job soon.
It Shouldn’t Be a Heavy Lift: Fair Treatment for Pregnant Workers, a report from A Better Balance and the National Women’s Law Center, features this and other stories of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. Click here to read the other stories and learn more.