Securing Basic Rights for Pregnant Workers like Christina
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No woman should be forced to choose between taking home a paycheck and ensuring a healthy pregnancy. But that was just the situation ERA client Christina found herself in early into her pregnancy with her second child.
In May 2015, Christina informed her employer Securitas, a security services company, that she was pregnant. She had planned the pregnancy, spoken with co-workers to ensure she would be supported at work, and was excited to grow her family. However, she couldn’t have imagined that she’d soon have to call Equal Rights Advocates for help in ensuring she could protect both her health and her employment.
Because Christina had a high-risk pregnancy, her doctor signed a note saying that she would be unable to attend to certain violent patients at the Kaiser facility where she had been contracted to work. While she thought Securitas would accommodate this need by modifying her job duties or moving her to another post within the same Kaiser facility, as they had done for co-workers injured on the job, she instead found herself out of work for a month.
Knowing that she needed money to support her 6-year old son and her pregnancy, Christina persuaded her doctor to remove the restriction, allowing her to be reinstated. But her battle with supervisors for the reasonable accommodations guaranteed to her under California law was far from over.
Back at Kaiser, Christina spent her eight-hour work shifts standing at a welcome podium, and was denied simple requests for a chair or stool to rest her aching feet. Subject to overtime, one day she stood for 14 hours, leaving her physically and emotionally exhausted. Before taking “fatigue breaks” or even a restroom break, she was required to call out the start and end times on a radio to all staff, a humiliating requirement no other employee had. Even her request for a larger uniform took over a month to be approved.
After addressing these problems with supervisors and Securitas’ human resources department several times, Christina contacted Equal Rights Advocates, and at just the right time. Our staff was able to quickly work with attorneys at Securitas to ensure that Christina received the pregnancy accommodations guaranteed to her under the law. Christina now happily serves in Kaiser’s dispatch center, where she is able to sit and will receive the same pay until she delivers. The change, she says, has “really taken a lot of stress off [her] shoulders.”
Even with laws in place to protect pregnant workers, there is still more work to be done to ensure that employers know these worker protections. No woman should have to wait months for her legally protected rights to be enforced.
While we continue to educate communities about pregnancy accommodation laws, Equal Rights Advocates will keep fighting for pregnant women workers like Christina.
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