Pregnant workers win protection in anti-discrimination law

pregnancy discrimination city council
Angie Welfare said she was forced to take unpaid sick leave when she was pregnant. The City Council passed legislation Tuesday that would help protect against such pregnancy discrimination.
Credit: William Alatriste

When Angie Welfare was eight weeks pregnant, she told her manager at American Airlines’ freight department in JFK airport that she wasn’t supposed to lift more than 10 pounds.

“He said, ‘We don’t have light duty for pregnant women,’” said Welfare, a 45-year-old resident of Jamaica, Queens. “They sent me home that day.”

Welfare, who had worked at the airline for 18 years, was forced to take an unpaid sick leave of absence.

That was May 31, 2006. On Tuesday, the City Council passed an amendment to protect against such pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.

If enacted, the amended bill would require employers to provide reasonable accommodation — what doesn’t cause undue hardship — to pregnant employees.

“A woman in Angie’s situation would be legally entitled to have that accommodation made,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who noted Welfare’s story was “critical in developing this legislation.”

The bill would also allow individuals to file a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and bring a civil action if they feel discriminated against.

But the law is meant to prevent, not necessarily punish, discrimination from employers, explained its sponsor, Bronx Councilman James Vacca.

“They will be getting clarity,” Vacca said.

The law is also meant to help pregnant women know their rights. The new requirements would be clearly visible in the workplace if the law is enacted.

Testifying before the City Council in June, Welfare said she didn’t have the “knowledge or resources” to challenge her employer, though she knew what they did was “wrong.”

When Welfare got pregnant a second time, she hid it from the airline.

That’s because the first time, Welfare said her house went into foreclosure, her bank account was frozen, and she had to rely on food stamps.

“Imagine planning to have a baby with no job or income. How do you plan?” she testified.

American Airlines did not respond to multiple requests for comment. A lawsuit Welfare filed against the company is pending.

“I always worked. … That was taken away from me, that privilege,” Welfare said Tuesday.

A couple hours before the bill passed, Vacca approached Welfare at City Hall.

“Thank you,” he said. “This was you.”

A spokeswoman said Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to sign the legislation.

Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter: @AnnaESanders


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Rapper affiliate of Wu-Tang Clan 'cuts off own…

Rapper Andre Johnson, who has performed with New York outfit the Wu-Tang Clan, is in a critical condition after reportedly cutting off his own penis…

National

Cleavage complaint: Disneyland staffer orders curvy mom to…

A curvy mom-of-three says she filed a formal complaint after staff at Disneyland Resort in California ordered her to cover up her boobs. Melissa Behnken,…

Local

Supporters say man accused of robbery was misidentified

A Liberian immigrant couple charged with extorting money from an elderly woman in March will be in court Thursday for a bail hearing, but supporters say it's a case of…

International

Canadian charged in 'Heartbleed' attack on tax agency

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian police have arrested a 19-year-old man and charged him in connection with exploiting the "Heartbleed" bug to steal taxpayer data from…

Television

‘Survivor: Cagayan’ recap: Episode 8

Sure, it's called Survivor. But this season should really be called 'The Tony Show.'

Television

Jim Rash talks 'The Writer's Room' and amazing…

For Jim Rash, as the fifth season of "Community" comes to a close, the second season of "The Writer's Room" begins.

Television

'Dexter' star Jennifer Carpenter moves into producing role

The actress who played the title character's sister in "Dexter" is teaming up with producer George Stelzner to adapt Erika Hayasaki's book "The Death Class:…

The Word

Wahlburgers announce North America domination

Tuesday was a huge day for Donnie Wahlberg.

NFL

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April version

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April version

NHL

Flyers, Rangers meet in playoffs for 11th time

The Flyers and Rangers will start a new chapter in a historic rivalry.

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: A's are baseball's best, Brewers…

MLB Power Rankings: A's are baseball's best, Brewers and Braves right behind

NHL

Top 5 Philadelphia storylines for Flyers-Rangers

The slate is clean for the Flyers and the Rangers. Which is good news for the Flyers.

Wellbeing

This Week in Health: chocolate may prevent obesity…

Can chocolate prevent obesity and diabetes? Location of study: U.S. Study subjects: Mice Results: The positive health benefits of chocolate have been studied increasingly more…

Wellbeing

This Week in Health News: breastfed infants trying…

Are breastfed infants trying to prevent mom from having another baby? Theory: The act of breastfeeding not only brings mom and baby closer together –…

Wellbeing

Unexplained infertility may be caused by lack of…

Researchers have identified a protein on the egg's surface that interacts with another protein on the surface of sperm, allowing the two cells to join.

Tech

5 surprising facts about Google Glass

Your sex life could get more interesting.