ANNAPOLIS – Rebecca Salsbury, 31, has less than one month to go before she becomes a mother. She plans to readjust her work-life balance when the time comes, but so far her pregnancy has meant little professional change at the private law firm in Baltimore where she’s an associate.
“Lucky,” is the word she used to describe her circumstances on the cusp of a paid three-month maternity leave, which she hopes will be followed by a nanny-share program she’ll arrange with a neighbor. The parents plan to share the cost of a single, child caretaker during the workday.
“I feel very fortunate that I can make that decision, that I can choose from different child- care options,” said Salsbury, a board member at the Women’s Law Center of Maryland.
Salsbury’s luxury of choice aligns with the experience of some pregnant women navigating the workplace in Maryland, but the experience for others, like Shayvon Omosanya, 24, could hardly be described as luxury, or even choice.
In an effort to correct that imbalance, Omosanya testified in a March hearing that led to Maryland’s passage of a pregnant worker protections act. The bill ensures that pregnant women cannot be forced out of their jobs or denied reasonable accommodations in the workplace.
Maryland — where, according to Department of Labor data, 78 percent of women in the childbearing age range of 20-44 are in the workforce — is one of at least eight states to pass pregnant worker protections.
Nationally, the number of pregnancy discrimination charges in the workplace has increased by 35 percent over the past decade, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Omosanya, as a woman within that demographic, had a personal stake in the cause.
Shortly after she became pregnant with her second child, the young mother learned that she had an incompetent cervix, a medical condition that prevented her from lifting anything more than 20 pounds.
She loved her job at Spa Creek Center, a Genesis HealthCare rehabilitation and nursing home in Annapolis where she had been working for eleven months. But lifting food trays and pushing heavy carts would put her and her baby at risk, so she asked to be moved to another department or work in the caf