Claiming Disability, Reclaiming Pregnancy: A Critical Analysis of the ADA’s Pregnancy Exclusion
Sheerine Alemzadeh, Claiming Disability, Reclaiming Pregnancy: A Critical Analysis of the ADA's Pregnancy Exclusion, 27 Wis. J.L. Gender & Soc'y 1 (2012)
35 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2013
Date Written: August 27, 2012
Currently, employers are not required to accommodate the physical realities that many pregnant women face at work. A central reason that employers can ignore the needs of pregnant workers is because pregnancy does not qualify as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, workers who qualify for protection are entitled to reasonable accommodations. Given that pregnancy is a physiological condition that can significantly alter major life activities, there is no legitimate reason pregnant workers who require some modifications to their work during their pregnancy should not enjoy the accommodation mandates of the ADA.
This paper will examine the reasons why pregnancy has heretofore been excluded from coverage as a disability under the ADA, and critique historical reticence by thefeminist community to embrace the ADA as a legitimate and effective tool for the advancement of pregnant workers’ rights.In recent months, pregnancy rights advocates have made a variety of sophisticated comparisons between the Pregnancy Rights Act (PDA) and the ADA, arguing that pregnant workers should be entitled to the same types of accommodations as disabled workers. These efforts indicate a growing appreciation for the transformative potential of the ADA in improving pregnant women’s work lives. However, advocates have stopped short of demanding that workers with healthy pregnancies receive reasonable accommodations pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act. This paper will provide an overview of current efforts, explain the strides the feminist community has made, and provide recommendations for even bolder reforms to current advocacy strategies.
Ultimately, the paper will conclude that the time has come to allow pregnant workers to make reasonable accommodation claims under the ADA. The recent passage of the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) allows for a broader and more comprehensive understanding of disability in the pregnancy context, and advocates should continue to seize on the opportunity to provide a robust new set of protections to improve the working conditions of pregnant women.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation