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Pregnancy As Disability: Professor Wants Coverage Under American With Disabilities Act (VIDEO)

First Posted: 01/06/12 10:32 AM ET Updated: 01/06/12 10:33 AM ET

Jeannette Cox, a law professor at the University of Dayton (Ohio), is suggesting that pregnant women experience symptoms that may warrant special accommodations from their employers and that pregnancy should be covered by the American Disabilities Act (ADA).

Cox, an employment discrimination expert, has conducted research on a variety of cases where pregnant women have lost their jobs because employers weren't willing to tweak rules in order to accommodate them, according to a University of Dayton press release.

While all workplaces may not have trouble accommodating pregnant employees, Cox argues that, overall, "pregnant workers currently have less legal standing" than people with comparable limitations. This, Cox says, may become an issue for women who work physically demanding jobs.

Mother and Ohio resident Ashley Vukovic says she thinks the additional protection might give mothers-to-be peace of mind when announcing their pregnancies to their employers.

"They are waiting 20-24 weeks to even say anything to their bosses," Vukovic told NBC4. "That's a hard thing to hear."

Cox says her proposal strives to ensure job security for all pregnant women, and that the timing is right for the government to reassess what conditions the ADA covers.

"The recent expansion of the ADA's protected class now includes persons with minor temporary physical limitations comparable to pregnancy's physical effects," Cox said in the release.

Pregnant women are already protected under the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Nevertheless, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, this law does not consider pregnancy an impairment, though pregnant workers are protected under some circumstances:

If an employee is temporarily unable to perform her job due to pregnancy, the employer must treat her the same as any other temporarily disabled employee. For example, if the employer allows temporarily disabled employees to modify tasks, perform alternative assignments or take disability leave or leave without pay, the employer also must allow an employee who is temporarily disabled due to pregnancy to do the same.

Pregnant employees must be permitted to work as long as they are able to perform their jobs. If an employee has been absent from work as a result of a pregnancy-related condition and recovers, her employer may not require her to remain on leave until the baby's birth.

For more on the story, watch the video report by NBC4 below.

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Filed by Ileana Llorens  |