Unemployment Insurance Victory: Pregnancy is not an Illness

On Monday, December 1, 2014, a Sacramento woman approached her boss with news that she was excited to share with her employer; she was pregnant. For the previous two years, she worked for a local construction company  cleaning houses that were under construction, making between 100 to 120 dollars a day. What she didn’t realize at the time is that December 1st, would be her last day on the job.

Upon hearing account of her pregnancy, her boss told her he needed medical documentation that she was fit for work. Five days later she  obtained the notification from a doctor stating that she could work, but her employer did not respond to her phone calls. Two days later, she visited her employer in person, and provided the doctor’s note.

The next day, one week after first notifying her boss of her pregnancy and consequently missing work, she again calls her boss, who once again refuses her calls. The following Monday, after missing another week of work, she files for unemployment insurance.

Firing a woman due to pregnancy is illegal  and employers are required to find reasonable accommodations for issues relating to pregnancy. Despite the law and the fact that she had done everything she could to return to work, the Employment Development Department found that was ineligible for benefits because  she had quit her job because of “illness.”  She took great offense to EDD’s characterization of her pregnancy as an “illness” having healthily worked during her three prior pregnancies.

On February 11th, the Center for Workers’ Rights to represented her at the California Unemployment Appeals Board and her denial was overturned.  Her story illustrates the precarious position many women find themselves in when working pregnant, and demonstrates the need for low-wage workers to have access to the kind of legal services provided by the Center.

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