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Maryland lawmakers consider bill protecting pregnant workers

The Maryland General Assembly has nearly passed a law that would increase workplace protection for pregnant women, legislation that was partially sparked by the case of a Landover woman who claims her employer discriminated against her based on her pregnancy. The House of Delegates recently approved the bill, sending it to await the response of the Senate.

The employment discrimination dispute that helped inspire the potential law is centered around a mother of three who sued UPS, where she was employed as a delivery driver, after her supervisors told her not to return to work until she gave birth to her baby, informing her that she was a liability to the company while pregnant. Although the woman's midwife told UPS she could not lift over 20 pounds, she told her managers that she would continue working as usual if they could not assign her to less strenuous duties. She filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against UPS seeking damages and the health benefits she lost while denied work in 2007, though she was unsuccessful. She hopes to petition the Supreme Court to hear the case.

While the woman has been unsuccessful in court, state lawmakers have taken notice of her complaint and introduced a bill that would require companies to let pregnant employees take on less strenuous duties that pose less risk to themselves and their unborn children. It would also introduce other measures aimed at protecting expectant mothers, making it compulsory for employers to provide them with chairs and other accommodations.

In order to receive such protections, pregnant workers would need to show their employer a note from a medical practitioner proving that continuing with their regular work would be potentially dangerous.

The bill is opposed by several business groups. The Maryland Chamber of Commerce argued that the law would be "overly intrusive" and "completely unnecessary."

Source: Baltimore Sun, "Bill would offer more protection to pregnant workers," Andrea K. Walker, March 22, 2013

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