Pittsburgh would expand existing protections against pregnancy discrimination to include women and their partners before and during pregnancy and after childbirth under legislation introduced Tuesday by City Council.
Councilwoman Erika Strassburger, who introduced the bill, said Pittsburgh would become one of the first cities nationwide to offer protections for partners of pregnant women.
The bill would require employers citywide to provide reasonable modifications to work spaces if necessary and offer scheduling flexibility so employees and partners can attend procedures, tests, and appointments associated with pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions.
“Early on during my pregnancy, I had pretty severe morning sickness,” said Strassburger of Squirrel Hill, who is due to have a baby in late March. “I didn’t fear for my job, but I can really empathize with people going through the same thing.”
The bill expands on legislation introduced in 2014 by then-Councilman Dan Gilman, now Mayor Bill Peduto’s chief of staff, and Councilwoman Deb Gross, banning discrimination against pregnant women.
“Previously, we were only covering pregnancy,” said Megan Stanley, deputy director of the city’s Commission on Human Relations. “That was a very limited definition, so related medical conditions under pregnancy were not necessarily covered. Partners also were not covered. We’re expanding the protection. We’re also clarifying them.”
Strassburger said the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission reported 3,200 pregnancy discrimination claims nationwide in 2018, double that of 1992 when the agency began keeping electronic records. Stanley said the commission is currently investigating two pregnancy discrimination complaints and closed an investigation into a third over the past six months. It received no complaints over the past two years.
She said the numbers do not reflect the frequency of discriminatory incidents because people are reluctant to file a complaint for fear of losing a job.
Pittsburgh’s legislation would require victims to file a complaint with the human relations commission. The commission has power to investigate and levy penalties against violators.
It has crafted a “guidance document” to help employers understand their rights and responsibilities under the legislation.
“The legislation being introduced today ensures that pregnant workers whether they work in a corporate office, a retail store or a warehouse can work in a safe and comfortable environment, attend medical appointments and sustain a healthy pregnancy without fear of losing their job or benefits,” she said.