The South Carolina Pregnancy Accommodations Act: A Step Toward Gender Equality

Pregnant businesswoman working on a laptopI believe Angela Davis may have said it best, “No march, movement, or agenda that defines manhood in the narrowest terms and seeks to make women lesser partners in this quest for equality can be considered a positive step.” In order to progress, as a society, it is completely necessary to seek justice and equality for all. We cannot seek to empower only those who look like us. Men and women—we have to do it together.

I commend South Carolina for being proactive in the quest for gender equality in the work place. In 1978, Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. However, it does not offer the level of protection the South Carolina Pregnancy Accommodations Act offers. Under the Federal act, a pregnant employee only has rights if they are initiated by an irregular disability brought on by the pregnancy. Unlike South Carolina, North Carolina does not have a law that specifically protects pregnant employees from discrimination.

A resident North Carolinian may say that the North Carolina workforce has additional protections under the Family Medical Leave Act. This is true. However, FMLA leave seeks to balance the interests of the employer as well as the needs of the employee. Therefore, it is not an absolute protection for the employee. As such, the FMLA has a maximum threshold for the amount of days an employee can miss each year, at which point the leave expires. Not to mention, in many cases, FMLA leave is unpaid leave. This does not compare favorably to State protection specifically drafted to support pregnant workers. Further, FMLA leave does not even come into play unless the employer employs more than fifty employees. This is nearly four times the fifteen employee requirements of the South Carolina Pregnancy Accommodations Act.

Even if a person feels like the differences between the Federal and State acts, they must still acknowledge the notice requirements under the South Carolina Pregnancy Accommodations Act. In South Carolina, not only must an employer that employs over fifteen employees required to provide reasonable accommodations for an employee with known limitations arising from pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions; but the employer must also provide written notice of the law’s provisions to their existing employees and employees, as well as new applicants. If I have learned anything in law school at all, I have learned that having a right does not mean a single thing, if you do not know you have the right or what it means to have the right.

Keeping with Sister Angela Davis’ words, “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” I understand and accept that I have a responsibility to use my knowledge to help empower the suppressed demographics of these United States. It is not enough to stand on the sidelines and observe the advancement of women’s rights. Just weeks ago, I began my own community service initiative to help inform and empower the women in the Charleston community. Realizing that South Carolina’s law is relatively new, I created a legal notice [[attached]] and distributed nearly 1000 notices to local maternity clinics. If I can help just one woman have an easier time balancing work and motherhood, it will all be worth it.

If you are experiencing work difficulties relating to your pregnancy, child birth, or a related medical condition, consider discussing reasonable accommodations with your supervisor.

To report unlawful discrimination, please contact:
South Carolina Human Affairs Commission
1026 Sumter Street, Suite 101
Columbia, SC 29201
Phone: 803-737-7800
Toll-Free: 1-800-521-0725

~Jonathan Harrison,
Class of 2019

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