In general, I think most of America (especially us mothers) would say “absolutely.” But a case in a Long Island court puts a unique twist on the age-old “is pregnancy really a disability” argument between moms and their employers.
The Suffolk County Parks Police do not provide light duty to any officer who is “injured” while off duty (in other words, limited duty is provided only for officers injured on the job). The department says that extends to female officers who get pregnant – it’s either work your regular duties or take leave during the pregnancy.They’re claiming that means they treat the sexes exactly the same.
But Tara Germain will be in court this week, claiming her civil rights were violated. As a woman, getting pregnant, she could not apply for any form of disability payments like her male counterparts, leaving her to face her pregnancy with no income coming in unless she decided to remain on full duty with the department.
Germain’s lawyers contend that the grueling duties required by her job were not appropriate for a pregnant woman, and although I’m not a police officer, I can see how running down a perp is not easily done with an eight-months-along belly. I worked up until the evening before I was induced – more than a week after my due date – and I can tell you that while being a reporter is different from being a cop, it’s another non-desk job which requires a lot of flexibility (try lying on the ground to get a good shot with a camera when you’re nine months along) and is hardly cushy. I speak from that experience when I say light duty of some sort is in order for pregnant women.
But I can’t totally blame the police department here. I blame the federal government. What do businesses do in a country where they have to keep running with the staff they have, but the government is doing nothing to provide their employees relief? The fix to problems like Germain’s doesn’t seem to be in suing the employers but in making the family medical leave act stronger – providing PAID leave for mothers, providing a funding source other than disability insurance (which not every employer carries) because pregnancy is not a disability. Employers need to play a role too; jobs should be protected (which they currently are – to a point) and pregnancy should be respected as something women do not to anger their employer but to enhance the world in general.
What do you think Babble readers? In the Germain case, who is in the right?
Image: NJ Blog