When Being Pregnant = Career Liability

bradl

macrumors 601
Original poster
Jun 16, 2008
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From one of the comments about the story:

"We'll call you whores if you use birth control, fire you if you're pregnant, call you a murderer if you get an abortion, cry that it's unfair that insurance covers childbirth, call you lazy and a drain on taxpayer dollars if you choose to be a stay-at-home mother, and call you selfish if you choose to work. But we're totally family-friendly, we swear!"

:rolleyes:

My employer at least at one point did have a conference room set up completely as a nursing/lactating room, privacy blinds and all. But that was about as far as they took it, outside of a longer maternity leave for mothers. Fathers? not so much; they have to burn vacation time for paternity leave. Either way, still a problem with this country all around.

Oh.. also, as if I need another reason to NOT shop at Walmart.

http://www.npr.org/2014/04/17/304070037/when-being-pregnant-also-means-being-out-of-a-job

When Being Pregnant Also Means Being Out Of A Job
by YUKI NOGUCHI
April 17, 2014 5:03 PM EDT

The workplace has become a more understanding place for pregnant women or new moms these days. Many companies now have lactation rooms and offer more liberal maternity and paternity leave policies than in years past.

But for some women, pregnancy can still be a career liability.

Heather Myers was fresh out of high school and working at a Wal-Mart in Salina, Kan., in 2006 when she found out she was pregnant. She kept a water bottle with her on the sales floor, as her doctor recommended. Then, her supervisor intervened.

"She said, 'I'm sorry, but we can't accept your doctor's note because we have ... the water fountains available to you,' " Myers says.

So Myers got a second doctor's note, but the supervisor rejected that, too.

"I was just a little shocked that this water bottle was kind of becoming this big deal, and they were even scrutinizing my doctors' notes," she says.

Myers held firm.

"I decided to go against what my supervisor suggested and listen to my doctor and to my body — and decided to keep the water bottle," she says. "And one day that supervisor came up to me and she said, 'Either the water bottle has to go or you have to go.' "

Myers was fired. She sued, and later settled out of court.

In March, Wal-Mart, under pressure from other women, amended its policy, saying it will take "reasonable measures" to accommodate temporary disability caused by pregnancy.

Refining The Concept Of 'Reasonable Accommodation'

Thirty-six years after Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, there is still a debate about what employers are required to do for expectant mothers.

In recent months, New Jersey, West Virginia, New York City and Philadelphia have passed laws explicitly requiring employers to "reasonably accommodate" pregnant workers. And there are similar proposals in several other states and the U.S. Congress.

Some in the business community support such measures. But others, like the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, say such bills create legal confusion for businesses that must also comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws.

Jeffrey Risch, chairman of the employment law and litigation committee for the chamber, says "it's going to be both costly and confusing" — especially for small businesses, he says.

Emily Martin, general counsel for the National Women's Law Center, disagrees. "Unfortunately, a lot of employers don't understand that they have legal obligations," she says.

Which is why, she adds, the law needs more clarity. Martin says employers that don't comply are often in low-wage professions like retail and food service or in male-dominated industries.

"Truck driving or policing. Those are also workplaces that are both physically demanding and that may have a culture of some hostility to women being on the job at all," Martin says.

'Too Much Of A Liability'

Take the case of Peggy Young. She had an early-delivery shift for UPS in Maryland when she got pregnant in 2006. She says the staff nurse told her to get a doctor's note saying that Young should avoid lifting objects heavier than 20 pounds.

"But when I took the note in to the nurse, she basically said, 'Well, we don't give alternative work or light duty to off-work incidents,' " Young says. "I'm like, 'I'm pregnant. There's not an incident here.' "

Young shared her story at an Olive Garden restaurant, where she now waitresses. She says she knew that UPS had reassigned some co-workers because of high blood pressure or drunken-driving offenses, so she petitioned her manager to allow her to continue working.

"And he pretty much said, 'You're too much of a liability in our building — don't come back until you're no longer pregnant.'

"I just kind of looked at him like, 'Are you serious? Like, I can't work?' "

His answer, Young says, was no.

Young sued UPS. Two lower courts ruled against her, so now she's petitioning the Supreme Court.

UPS spokeswoman Susan Rosenberg says the lower court rulings show the company's policy is consistent with the law. In cases of medical need, the company accommodates workers — but pregnancy is not given special treatment.

"The courts determined that UPS policy is pregnancy blind," she says.

Young and her attorneys are waiting to see whether the high court will hear her case.
BL.
 

Zombie Acorn

macrumors 65816
Feb 2, 2009
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Toronto, Ontario
Salina is a ******** so the WalMart story doesn't really surprise me, although its completely ridiculous.

Unfortunately, workplace treatment of pregnant women isn't much better up here. My wife is 8 months and her work told her she couldn't eat or drink while in her schoolroom even though they had a doctors note on file ALREADY for a previous occurrence that had my wife go to the hospital. Guess what, she passed out again and had to go to triage to ensure everything was alright. Real ****ing geniuses on staff in management there, the doctor basically said to call a lawyer next time it occurs. This is an all woman staff as well so I would expect more empathy.

Manager also told her shed be demoted when she came back and her seniority would not apply. I told her to talk to the owner as this is strictly against the law and im pretty sure the manager got an earful after that meeting as the owner has 4 kids.

Only good part of the story is that the government protects your job, parental leave can be taken by either parent and you are basically off for a year to raise your child while getting employment insurance (about 55% pay).
 

vrDrew

macrumors 65816
Jan 31, 2010
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This woman wasn't fired of being pregnant. She was fired for having a water bottle at her workstation. Which is apparently against company sales-floor policies.

The human body, even a pregnant one nursing a fetus, simply doesn't need literally constant hydration. We are blessed with a stomach and circulatory system that provides an ample reserve of liquid to keep our organs healthy. If human beings can survive several hours toiling in desert conditions without water, this teenage woman can stand in air-conditioned comfort an hour or two between drinks.

The doctor who issued this woman the note screwed up. Once he got it into her head that taking her zippy cup away was going to kill her baby, the die was cast.
 

Zombie Acorn

macrumors 65816
Feb 2, 2009
1,301
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Toronto, Ontario
This woman wasn't fired of being pregnant. She was fired for having a water bottle at her workstation. Which is apparently against company sales-floor policies.

The human body, even a pregnant one nursing a fetus, simply doesn't need literally constant hydration. We are blessed with a stomach and circulatory system that provides an ample reserve of liquid to keep our organs healthy. If human beings can survive several hours toiling in desert conditions without water, this teenage woman can stand in air-conditioned comfort an hour or two between drinks.

The doctor who issued this woman the note screwed up. Once he got it into her head that taking her zippy cup away was going to kill her baby, the die was cast.
All we need now is for you to upload your credentials as a medical doctor.
 

Gutwrench

Contributor
Jan 2, 2011
3,894
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It seems to me to be a mass overreaction by everyone. The pregnant girl, the employer, and NPR. There are real problems in this world and this specific case isn't one of them.
 

lostngone

macrumors 65816
Aug 11, 2003
1,340
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Anchorage
Was it her choice?

I personally think the Pregnancy Discrimination Act should be changed.

Unless someone was raped or we have another immaculate conception on our hands pregnancy is a choice.
 

aerok

macrumors 65816
Oct 29, 2011
1,488
135
I personally think the Pregnancy Discrimination Act should be changed.

Unless someone was raped or we have another immaculate conception on our hands pregnancy is a choice.
Yet again, your logic baffles me
 

vrDrew

macrumors 65816
Jan 31, 2010
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All we need now is for you to upload your credentials as a medical doctor.
The doctor screwed up by not taking into account his patient's job.

Lets be very clear about this: This wasn't about pregnancy or hydration. It was about this woman wanting to keep a sippy cup at her workstation.

If the Doctor had given her a note that said: "This patient needs to drink 250ml water every 30 minutes" then her employer could have accommodated her. They'd have let her use the drinking fountain.

Instead, he set her up to collide with Wal-Mart's sales floor policy, which says no personal drinking items (soda cans, bottles, etc.)

I think Wal-Mart is a rotten employer. But in this case the woman and her Doctor made some poor choices.
 

Zombie Acorn

macrumors 65816
Feb 2, 2009
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Toronto, Ontario
I personally think the Pregnancy Discrimination Act should be changed.

Unless someone was raped or we have another immaculate conception on our hands pregnancy is a choice.
Sounds like a great plan to make sure all mothers are riding the taxpayer wagon express. Where do you think they will go when they get fired for being pregnant?

Businesses in the US do very little to accommodate women who are pregnant. Another reason that I am glad I do not live there any longer.

----------

The doctor screwed up by not taking into account his patient's job.

Lets be very clear about this: This wasn't about pregnancy or hydration. It was about this woman wanting to keep a sippy cup at her workstation.

If the Doctor had given her a note that said: "This patient needs to drink 250ml water every 30 minutes" then her employer could have accommodated her. They'd have let her use the drinking fountain.

Instead, he set her up to collide with Wal-Mart's sales floor policy, which says no personal drinking items (soda cans, bottles, etc.)

I think Wal-Mart is a rotten employer. But in this case the woman and her Doctor made some poor choices.
If they had a valid reason to prevent pregnant women, who needed to stay hydrated and often have fainting/heat spells, from drinking water on the floor you might have a point.

God forbid a pregnant woman take a drink of water between checking people out. I'm sure there would be a customer outrage at the audacity.

Also you know nothing about this specific mother's medical condition, nor the note the doctor sent.

Sounds like Walmart paid out some dough to keep this out of the legal system by settling. I don't really blame them as they were going to sink like the titanic if this came anywhere near a court of law. Not to mention the damage it would do to their image when most of their shoppers are likely women/mothers.
 
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Ledgem

macrumors 68000
Jan 18, 2008
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The human body, even a pregnant one nursing a fetus, simply doesn't need literally constant hydration. We are blessed with a stomach and circulatory system that provides an ample reserve of liquid to keep our organs healthy. If human beings can survive several hours toiling in desert conditions without water, this teenage woman can stand in air-conditioned comfort an hour or two between drinks.
I am not a doctor, but I am a medical student in the latter half of medical school.
You're right that the body doesn't need constant hydration, but you probably also realize that the goal isn't simply survival. We have greatly reduced maternal and fetal mortality and complications compared to those days of "toiling in the desert," but we haven't eliminated them. Losing a pregnancy is a big deal.

The doctor who issued this woman the note screwed up. Once he got it into her head that taking her zippy cup away was going to kill her baby, the die was cast.
I don't think it's fair to say that she thought she would lose her baby if she couldn't drink frequently. We don't know what she was thinking. For that matter, we don't know the details of her pregnancy or her health. Hydration is important in pregnancy, but she might have had some underlying conditions or complications that made it critical to her case.

I understand and am sympathetic to businesses, as they have an image to maintain and work to get done. There are some demands that they simply can't meet for pregnant employees. Making an issue over a water bottle seems like a questionable stance to take, though. Is the presence of a water bottle at a one worker's area for a few months such a big deal that it is worth risking the health of the baby and/or the mother?
 

vrDrew

macrumors 65816
Jan 31, 2010
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SIf they had a valid reason to prevent pregnant women, who needed to stay hydrated and often have fainting/heat spells, from drinking water on the floor you might have a point.
They DO have a valid reason for not allowing Sales Associates to keep personal drinking items (soda cans, coffee cups, drinking bottles) at their work station.

Pretty much every major retailer in the US has this policy: No eating or drinking on the sales floor. For good reason: It is rude and disrespectful to customers, who expect sales staff to pay attention to them, and not be guzzling and slurping as they serve them.

If Wal-Mart allowed an exception for a pregnant woman, then what is to stop people with just about any imaginable medical condition (obesity, high blood pressure, skin conditions, etc.) to claim the same thing?

Instead, Wal-Mart offered to let this woman make use of the water-fountains. (How frequently isn't mentioned.) But that wasn't good enough for her. She insisted on keeping her own special cup at her workstation.
 

quagmire

macrumors 603
Apr 19, 2004
6,255
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Who would I call a person who would lack the empathy to let a pregnant woman take a second to drink between customers? A jackass.
 

samiwas

macrumors 68000
Aug 26, 2006
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I personally think the Pregnancy Discrimination Act should be changed.

Unless someone was raped or we have another immaculate conception on our hands pregnancy is a choice.
I personally think your favorite law should be changed because it's pointless and stupid and serves little real-world purpose (and is much more of a choice), but, hey…it's there for now.

I understand and am sympathetic to businesses, as they have an image to maintain and work to get done. There are some demands that they simply can't meet for pregnant employees. Making an issue over a water bottle seems like a questionable stance to take, though. Is the presence of a water bottle at a one worker's area for a few months such a big deal that it is worth risking the health of the baby and/or the mother?
Having a water bottle with you is not going to affect their image in any oct of negative way…they are Wal-Mart after all. Let's be very clear that this has nothing to do with protecting images or affecting work getting done. This is about being *******s towards pregnant women.

I've flat out told my supervisor that I wouldn't follow his "no drinks in the space" rule when I had guys climbing up inside dusty ceilings. They needed to be able to take a sip of water if they got a mouthful of dust.

They DO have a valid reason for not allowing Sales Associates to keep personal drinking items (soda cans, coffee cups, drinking bottles) at their work station.

Pretty much every major retailer in the US has this policy: No eating or drinking on the sales floor. For good reason: It is rude and disrespectful to customers, who expect sales staff to pay attention to them, and not be guzzling and slurping as they serve them.
I don't know what this woman did at Wal-Mart, but I have never, ever judged someone or deemed it rude if they took a sip in between customers. The article doesn't even say what her position was. Maybe she didn't even have real direct customer contact. If she was a checkout person, and took sips between customers, what's the big deal? If I'm talking to you, and you have a slurpee that you're sucking down, that's rude. Taking a sip from a water bottle is not.

Instead, Wal-Mart offered to let this woman make use of the water-fountains. (How frequently isn't mentioned.) But that wasn't good enough for her. She insisted on keeping her own special cup at her workstation.
There is probably one set of water fountains at a Wal-Mart, and if she worked on the opposite side of the store, it could take several minutes just to get to them. Instead, she's trying to keep working and just take sips as needed. She's staying efficient and doing her job instead of waddling across the store ten times a day.

Again…this is about being an ******* to pregnant women.
 
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VulchR

macrumors 68020
Jun 8, 2009
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Scotland
The true reason on the ban for liquids is not rudeness to customers, but preventing employees drinking booze on the job. Or at least that's the only half-rational explanation for it that I can imagine. I mean, really, who is offended by somebody sipping on a drink? Are people offended by breathing as well? :rolleyes:

As for Walmart 'maintaining its image', well, it has. :mad: You think we've come so far. And then you hear this.
 

Southern Dad

macrumors 68000
May 23, 2010
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Shady Dale, Georgia
If they let her have the water bottle with her while working, soon there will be a second and third employee that want to do it. More and more people will have these bottle. Then someone will try putting Sprite instead of water... Then vodka instead of water... If you allow it for one you will have to allow it for all.

There are jobs that a person who is pregnant cannot do. UPS is a great example. It is a requirement to be able to lift and move packages. Once you can't do your job, you should take leave until you can.
 

VulchR

macrumors 68020
Jun 8, 2009
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If they let her have the water bottle with her while working, soon there will be a second and third employee that want to do it. More and more people will have these bottle....
Agreed. If we let the rabble drink water, who knows what's next? Demands for a living wage?
 

rdowns

macrumors Penryn
Jul 11, 2003
27,345
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Interesting thread. It usually takes until the baby is born to see the pro-life crowd give up complete interest in the mother and kid.
 

vrDrew

macrumors 65816
Jan 31, 2010
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Agreed. If we let the rabble drink water, who knows what's next? Demands for a living wage?
Liberals (and I include myself in that category) lose more support over nonsense like this than they possibly imagine.

Nobody fired this woman for being pregnant. Nobody fired this woman for needing or wanting to keep hydrated. They fired her for being an ass. And she lost a minimum wage position that was probably pretty much of a dead-end anyway.

I don't doubt, for a second, that her Wal-Mart supervisor could have (probably should have) done a better job at resolving the situation. But thats the sort of crappy talent you get for the sort of salary Wal-Mart pays its low-level management.

Getting Wal-Mart to pay a living wage is a desirable goal. But don't fight it on the basis of giving some tiny subset of the employees special privileges over those of everyone else.

You win the battle - but lose the war.
 

Zombie Acorn

macrumors 65816
Feb 2, 2009
1,301
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Toronto, Ontario
Clearly:

1. Women should ask permission from their corporation of choice before getting pregnant
2. Should be fired immediately if they are found to be pregnant without permission, we should start administering piss tests on the first of the month just in case.
3. When women do become pregnant, they should listen to their manager instead of their doctor, especially Walmart managers because they are super duper bright.
4. If they think they are entitled to any special privileges for being pregnant and carrying another life within them they should have thought of that before hand and are fired immediately.
5. Pregnant women taking sips of water between customers is clearly offensive and rude. Who the hell do these people think they are drinking water?
 

vrDrew

macrumors 65816
Jan 31, 2010
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Clearly:

1. Women should ask permission from their corporation of choice before getting pregnant....
Hyperbole like this doesn't help anyone.

Nobody is trying to discriminate against pregnant women. And I think that many/most companies are more than willing to make reasonable allowances to accommodate the requirements of pregnant women; the same way as most decent companies will make allowances for people in wheelchairs or most other disabilities.

What companies don't want to do is start granting some subsets or minorities special privileges.

Thats not a racial or sexist thing. Its just good business. Treat every employee doing a job - as far as reasonably possible - the same way.

And if I don't let cashier Allison (not pregnant) sip water at the register, its not fair to let cashier Brenda (pregnant) sip away, as long as I let them both have reasonable access to clean drinking water/bathrooms throughout the day.
 

jnpy!$4g3cwk

macrumors 65816
Feb 11, 2010
1,100
1,293
Treat every employee doing a job - as far as reasonably possible - the same way.

And if I don't let cashier Allison (not pregnant) sip water at the register, its not fair to let cashier Brenda (pregnant) sip away, as long as I let them both have reasonable access to clean drinking water/bathrooms throughout the day.
Except if a pregnant woman requires an accommodation because they she is pregnant. Or a disabled person requires an accommodation because they are disabled. I don't play a lawyer on an internet, but, these issues have come up in my work life and employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations. All this to say: no, you actually don't treat everyone exactly the same way. And, that is the answer why as to why Mildred, who is not pregnant, isn't allowed a bottle of Coke and Bourbon, while Nichole, who is pregnant, is allowed a bottle of water if she needs it.


That said, I think kids under 30 [that is my reference point for kids now ;) ] seem to me to be obsessed about drinking water all the time. I don't actually get thirsty every 15 minutes unless I am out walking in 100 degree heat.
 

VulchR

macrumors 68020
Jun 8, 2009
2,327
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Hyperbole like this doesn't help anyone.
It was impressive nonetheless. Sometimes a reductio ad absurdum is the only way to make a point.

@Zombie Acorn: You forgot the policy for charging the employees for water ... and air.
 

vrDrew

macrumors 65816
Jan 31, 2010
1,317
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Except if a pregnant woman requires an accommodation because they she is pregnant.
The accommodation the pregnant woman needs (at least from a medical standpoint) is the ability to drink water regularly.

Grant her that. Let her go to the bathroom/lunchroom every 10 minutes if that what the Doctor says.

But don't let her keep a bottle at her workstation - which a) clearly is unfair to everyone else working there and b) Most Importantly will offend and annoy customers.