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Maryland enacts protections for pregnant workers

Back in April, we discussed the employment law dispute of a former UPS employee here in Maryland. The woman was put on unpaid leave about six years ago due to her pregnancy. This caused her to lose her health insurance, and because she had not actually been fired she was not able to qualify for unemployment benefits. She sued UPS for pregnancy discrimination, and so far she has been losing her case.

Despite that difficult legal battle, she has now become the voice of a new Maryland law that will protect mothers at work. Last week Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley signed the pregnant worker protection bill into law with this woman standing behind him.

This new law will require employers to consider providing light duty and other accommodations to pregnant workers. They will not have to go so far as creating new jobs for pregnant women.

A law like this may have allowed the former UPS employee to keep her job during her pregnancy. She was put on unpaid leave because her doctor had asked her not to lift any more than 20 pounds, and UPS refused to provide her with light duty.

UPS policy states that light duty is offered to only those who are considered disabled per the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as those who have suffered workplace injuries or who have lost their federal transportation certification. This meant that women who worked for UPS would essentially need to choose between pregnancy and an income.

In 2008, the ADA was amended to cover temporary disabilities related to pregnancy, but this woman's dispute began shortly before that amendment went into effect.

While the future of this woman's case remains to be seen, employers and employees in Maryland should note that current state and federal laws now generally require that employers make accommodations for pregnant women. Pregnant women who face workplace discrimination may benefit from legal counsel.

Source: NBC Washington, "The Voice of Maryland's Pregnant Worker's Protection Law," Darcy Spencer, May 17, 2013

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