Contact: Richard Morse, Legal Director—(302) 654-5326 x103, rmorse@aclu-de.org

The American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware recently helped a Seaford woman get her job back after she was dismissed because she was pregnant. This action marked the first enforcement of Delaware’s newly passed Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

Marisa* was forced from her job at a Seaford preschool because her employer refused to allow her to work during her third trimester of pregnancy. She was never told that her job performance was lacking; termination during the third trimester was standard company policy. Upon learning that she was terminated, Marisa requested a temporary light duty assignment, which she was denied. Left with the financial burden of providing for her family and preparing for a baby without an income, she turned to ACLU-DE for assistance.

After first disputing that Marisa was let go because of her pregnancy, the preschool rescinded its termination and agreed to provide her with back pay. Consistent with her obstetrician’s advice, Marisa stopped working the week before she was due. She delivered a healthy son, Eamon, on December 12th.

Marisa gave birth to a healthy son, Eamon, in December 2014.

Losing my income two months early was a nightmare,” Marisa said. “I had doctors’ visits to pay for; my regular bills to pay; and my first child, a girl, to provide for. I’m glad these protections are in place now, especially since I have a daughter. I don’t want her or anyone else who becomes pregnant to have to go through this.”

A movement to ensure protections for pregnant women is quickly gaining ground across the country. As of December, twelve states and five cities have passed pregnancy laws, many with unanimous support from lawmakers, and more states are poised to join them over the next several months.

Delaware lawmakers unanimously passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act last year. The law, which became effective September 9, 2014, protects women who are pregnant or who have just given birth from being denied a job, forced to take leave or fired based on their pregnancy. The law also obligates employers to provide reasonable accommodations such as additional or extended breaks, a chair or temporary light duty assignments to pregnant workers. The law applies to employers with four or more employees, and protects employees regardless of their tenure or the number of hours they work.

Delaware has made it clear that women in the workforce should not have to choose between a healthy pregnancy and a job,” said ACLU-DE executive director Kathleen MacRae. “When we force pregnant women and new mothers out of the workforce, we prevent them from having the stable careers they need to provide for their families. Discrimination against women at a time when they need only reasonable support to continue being productive employees is unconscionable.”

 

*Name has been changed.

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