Pregnant Workers Fairness Act 2013: Woman Sues Albertsons Supermarket For Her Stillborn Baby

A California employee of the Albertsons supermarket chain is filing a suit claiming they refused to accommodate her pregnancy, ultimately leading to the death of her baby, the Huffington Post reported on Thursday.

Reyna Garcia, 30, a general merchandise manager at the Albertsons in Atascadero, California, filed a complaint stating that despite several notes from her doctor explaining her high-risk pregnancy, her superiors refused to let her ease up on the heavy lifting.

As happens when pregnant ladies load and unload pallets topped with hundreds of pounds of products, Garcia’s water broke one night in November, shortly after she complained of pain and was denied a break by her superior. When she got to the hospital, she found out that her baby was in distress and was sustaining brain trauma. A couple of days later, “Baby Jade” was born. She died in less than 10 minutes.

From the complaint, obtained by HuffPost’s Dave Jamieson:

“When Ms. García returned home from work on November 12, 2012, her amniotic sac began to bulge from between her legs and she was rushed to the emergency room. At 20 weeks' gestation, her doctor thought her body might rebuild the amniotic sac. On November 14, 2012, Ms. Garcia's water broke. Ms. García remained hospitalized and was able to keep her baby inside of her and alive for 3 days, at which point it became clear to her doctor that her body would not rebuild the amniotic sac and the baby was brain damaged. On November 17, 2012, the doctor induced labor, and Ms.García delivered a baby girl named Jade who survived for no more than 10 minutes before dying.”

Garcia is one of a growing number of women whose pregnancy needs aren’t adequately accommodated, or even blatantly ignored, in the workplace. According to a report by the National Women’s Law Center, 89% of first-time mothers who worked while pregnant in 2006-2008, worked into their last two months of pregnancy. Of those same women, 82% remained in their jobs into their last month. Because the average delivery costs more than $7,500, women are forced to choose between health and income.

What’s more, the report adds that women who work retail jobs, where employees are required to stand long hours, or hold positions traditionally associated with men, like Garcia, are even more likely to be discriminated against.

“Accommodations are particularly important in physically demanding jobs because research shows that physically demanding work — including jobs that require prolonged standing, long work hours, irregular work schedules, heavy lifting, or high physical activity — carries a statistically-significant increased risk of preterm delivery and low birth weight, ” the report states.

Giving women the impossible choice of working (and in many cases, retaining their health insurance) or maintaining their and their unborn child’s health, is akin to forcing them to do tasks that they cannot perform. This is illegal. In 1978, Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which outlawed discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Unfortunately, this law is often ignored.

In 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission reported 3,745 cases of pregnancy discrimination. Because pregnancy is not considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers have no obligation to regard it as debilitating (Oh, and did I mention you can still get fired for being pregnant? Hello 21st century).

This is why a Pregnant Workers Fairness Act was re-introduced in the Senate and House this past May. This new bill would mandate employers to “make reasonable accommodations to employees stemming from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer.” In other words, pregnant women would be entitled to the same accommodations as those with other disabilities, according to he NWLC.

Great, right? Problem solved.

Well, no. Unfortunately for the childbearing half of the population, our hard-working lawmakers haven’t found the time to hold a hearing, or vote on it yet.

In the meantime, Reyna Garcia continues to work at Albertsons.