On the 35th anniversary of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), we are reminded that women of color experience multiple forms of discrimination because of their race, gender, immigration status, sexual orientation, and yes even when they become pregnant. In fact, this discrimination often translates into poor health outcomes for these women and their children. Last year, researchers found that discrimination against young, pregnant, urban women of color contributed to symptoms of depression and consequently, lower birth weight, an indicator of poor future health for their children. In that study, 62% of its participants were Latina.
Although we know women of color experience discrimination, we often don’t talk about how they suffer from workplace discrimination if they become pregnant. Many women of color and immigrant women, particularly Latinas, are disproportionately represented in low-earning, physically demanding jobs. For instance, more than 750,000 Latinas work in the production, transportation, and material moving occupations and another nearly 2.7 million Latinas are employed in the service industry. There have been a disproportionate number of pregnancy discrimination claims from these employment sectors. If a Latina becomes pregnant and her employer refuses to make slight accommodations that would allow her to stay healthy and keep her job, then she is forced to choose between her health and her paycheck. For example, an accommodation for a cashier could be as simple as allowing her to sit on a stool rather than standing on her feet or allowing her to have additional break time. To make matters worse, many women of color are the sole breadwinners for their household. An employer who refuses to make these accommodations jeopardizes the economic security of a Latina and her family, and possibly, her ability to have access to health care.
One way to mark the anniversary of the PDA is to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. Although PDA outlaws discrimination based on pregnancy, employers are still getting away with pushing pregnant, women of color out of the workplace. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would build on existing law by requiring employers to give reasonable accommodations when workers need them due to pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions, just like they do for workers who face similar limitations. As a result, it will ensure that women of color, including Latinas, can continue working while staying healthy. If you think pregnant, women of color workers deserve fair treatment and should be able to keep their jobs, take action here.