Beckman Weil Shepardson, LLC

Heather Wiseman was a Wal-Mart sales floor associate. When she became pregnant, she began to suffer from urinary and bladder infections and started carrying a water bottle at work on her doctor’s advice to insure she stayed hydrated. Because of the rule that only cashiers could have water bottles at work, she was terminated. She contested this termination in court and lost. There are many other cases similar to this one, as cited in this article.

While pregnant women are currently protected by the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), that law does not require that employers provide a pregnant employee with reasonable accommodations, such as carrying a water bottle, which would enable her to continue working in spite of her pregnancy. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which does require employers to provide employees with reasonable accommodation, does not apply to these situations because pregnancy is not a disability.

However, now both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives have introduced bills to further the protections for pregnant women in the workplace – The Pregnant Worker’s Fairness Act (H.R. 5647 and S. 3565 in the Senate). Both bills, introduced in 2012, have been referred to their respective subcommittees and if approved, could be voted on in 2013. The Act would require covered employers to make reasonable accommodations to known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions of applicants or employees, unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on such an employer’s business operation.