On 24th anniversary of the Act, Tom Spiggle points out new parents have more legal protection
On the 24th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, attorney Tom Spiggle says that many workers and bosses do not realize that it also covers women with postpartum depression. A noted advocate in the field of workplace discrimination, Tom Spiggle says that recent federal guidelines that rely on the ADA and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 make clear that new mothers who are suffering from depression are protected.
“A lot of Americans think that maternity leave is basically all there is,” said Spiggle, who often represents women who have faced discrimination. “But as these new guidelines make clear, new mothers have a lot more legal protection than they often realize. If more people knew this, American workplaces would be a lot friendlier places to parents.
Postpartum depression is a serious problem. Some studies suggest that as many as one in 10 women will experience a major depressive episode either during or after pregnancy. And this does not fully capture the problem, as some women experience a mental health disease that cannot be easily categorized as postpartum depression — for instance, many women experience postpartum OCD/anxiety, characterized by, among other symptoms, excessive hand washing and checking the baby.
Federal agencies have taken note. Spiggle said that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently sued an employer which had fired an employee suffering from postpartum depression. Although the case was settled before trial, the lawsuit shows that employers should take claims of postpartum depression seriously, Spiggle argued.
“When people think of disabilities, they think of permanent physical injuries — things like losing the use of your hand or leg,” added Spiggle. “But the Americans with Disabilities Act now has a much broader definition, which can include mental health issues, even if they are temporary. That includes postpartum depression.”
Tom Spiggle is author of “You’re Pregnant? You’re Fired: Protecting Mothers, Fathers, and Other Caregivers in the Workplace” which will hit shelves later this spring. To learn more, visit: www.yourepregnantyourefired.com .