In 1963, specific laws were adopted under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to prohibit any kind of discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion and nationality. Hence, women had to be given equal considerations in all jobs. In 1978, a Federal Discrimination Act was adopted, prohibiting sex discriminatory on various grounds such as pregnancy, childbirth and other such issues. It prohibited construction of unjustified measures, and policies or practices that were really not needed or unscientific.
Organizations may often adopt certain fetal protection policies to protect pregnant women at their workplace from mutagens and teratogens. However, these policies were usually set with an intention to exclude women who had to ability to reproduce from jobs that had better benefits. Many of these policies did not have a scientific backing, and were in conflict with the anti-discrimination rules (against gender). There is a thin line between developing appropriate fetal protection policies and crossing into the territory of discrimination. Most of the time this boundary is crossed due to equality issues existing between men and women.
A classic example of such discrimination is the United Auto Workers v. Johnson Controls Case (1991). The company suggested that women should not engage in jobs in which they were exposed to lead as it could cause a problem with reproduction. After taking advice from medical experts, they even disqualified women from such jobs. The company’s policy was challenged in the court in 1984. The court found that these policies of the company were unjustified as they had irrationally excluded women based on gender and sex. The company could not excuse excluding women with an intention to protect the fetus. The duty of the employer to protect the fetus of women employees was being misused in this case and in straight-forward conflict with the anti-discrimination laws.
In the case Hayes v. Shelby Memorial Hospital, [726 F.2d 1543 (IIth Cir. I984)] case, a hospital had discharged an X-ray technician after they learned that she was pregnant. The company could have considered less discriminatory measures in order to protect the fetus adequately. The action of the company was considered as an abuse of Title VII.
JSTOR. (2000). Title VII. Equal Employment Opportunity. Seventh Circuit Upholds Employer’s Fetal Protection Plan. UAW v. Johnson Controls, Inc., 886 F.2d 871 (7th Cir. 1989). Harvard Law Review, 103(4), 977-982.
Moelis, L. S. (1985). Fetal protection and potential liability: judicial application of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the disparate impact theory. Am J Law Med, 11(3), 369-390.
Noichl-Braun, C. (2000). Are fetal protection policies justified in view of employment discrimination? Journal of Behavioral and Applied Management. 2(1), 60. http://www.ibam.com/pubs/jbam/articles/vol2/article_15.html