A Michigan woman is suing her health-care employer, arguing she was forced out of a job after she became pregnant. The lawsuit is the latest in a string of actions across the country to try and address the systemic problem of on-the-job pregnancy discrimination.
Asia Myers works as a certified nursing assistant at Hope Healthcare Center, a long-term care facility in Westland, Michigan. Early in her pregnancy, Myers experienced pregnancy complications and was told by her doctor not to perform any heavy lifting on the job without risk of miscarriage. She was ordered on bed rest for a week and then cleared to return to work, so long as she did not engage in any lifting or pushing. With orders from her doctor, Myers returned to work to request an accommodation. But despite the fact that the center had a history of accommodating workers with similar restrictions, Myers was forced onto unpaid leave and was told not to return to work until she was able to work without restrictions.
The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, and Michigan law also protects pregnant workers like Myers. But unfortunately, Myers’ story is not unique, nor is it isolated to Michigan. “This kind of unlawful discrimination unfairly punishes women who choose to start a family,” said Ariela Migdal, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Women’s Rights Project said in a statement announcing the amended complaint. “It’s shameful that 35 years after Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, women are still being pushed out of the workplace once they become pregnant.”
While Myers was able to return to work after her doctor determined the complications had passed, she suffered significant financial hardship from being out of work for a month.
A clear pattern is emerging in which women in the state are punished economically no matter what choice they try and make; the case comes on the heels of Detroit’s municipal bankruptcy, which will take benefits away from many women, as well as efforts to force women to purchase additional insurance coverage for abortion care, and allegations that the Catholic bishops, rather than doctors, are directing patient care. “It’s unfair to make me choose between earning a living and protecting my health and the health of my baby when I could still perform my job without doing any heavy lifting,” said Myers in a statement. “I was only asking to be treated the same way as other workers who had temporary restrictions on lifting. I love my job and am a good worker. It was wrong to force me off the job.”