On Thursday, September 26th, Lenora Lapides from the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project came to speak. Her topic was something that was theoretically solved by a congressional act in 1978: pregnancy discrimination. Some women are fired on the spot when they tell their bosses that they are pregnant, while others are more subtly pushed out, often refused basic accommodations such as more frequent bathroom breaks. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 makes actively discriminating against pregnant women illegal, but it does not force employers to make accommodations for them. By way of contrast, The Americans with Disabilities Act protects all manner of temporary disabilities. An employee with a back injury will not be forced to lift heavy items under the ADA, but a woman who is eight months pregnant is not guaranteed the same protection.
Ms. Lapides spoke engagingly on the ACLU’s litigation strategy and their legislative advocacy on both the state and federal levels. Ms. Lapides focused on the need to change our image of the American worker: our workers are not just stereotypical male breadwinners anymore, they are a mix of men and women, young and old, with different physical abilities, and occasionally workers may be pregnant. A pregnant worker should be just another employee, granted small accommodations as necessary, as companies would do for any other employee’s physical well-being.