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School of Law : Prof. Cox Publishes Article on Pregnancy, Disability in Boston College Law Review

Cox Publishes Article on Pregnancy, Disability in Boston College Law Review

Associate professor Jeannette Cox’s article on pregnancy and disability has been published in the Boston College Law Review.

In the article, “Pregnancy as ‘Disability’ and the Amended Americans with Disabilities Act,” Cox proposes that the ADA should be interpreted to protect pregnant workers. 

The article has received widespread attention from media around North America, including the Huffington Post, the Wall Street Journal’s Juggle blog and the Toronto Globe and Mail. She was interviewed on WGN radio with Mike McConnell, Friendly Fire on Newstalk, and The Takeaway, a national public radio show co-produced by WNYC with The New York Times, the BBC and PRI. Cox also wrote an opinion article for on the proposal.

In addition, the ACLU Women’s Rights Project has cited the article in an animus brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and in comments on pregnancy discrimination to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  

Cox presented the paper at the American Association of Law Schools annual meeting in Washington, D.C.; the Seton Hall Law School Employment and Labor Law Forum; and the Colloquium on Current Scholarship in Labor and Employment Law in Los Angeles.  

Cox teaches employment discrimination, civil procedure and statutory interpretation.  

Read the article abstract:  

The recent expansion of the Americans with Disabilities Act’s (ADA) protected class invites reexamination of the assumption that pregnant workers may not use the ADA to obtain workplace accommodations. The ADA’s scope now includes persons with minor temporary physical limitations comparable to pregnancy’s physical effects. Accordingly, the primary remaining justification for concluding that pregnant workers may not obtain ADA accommodations is that pregnancy is a physically healthy condition rather than a physiological defect. Drawing on the social model of disability, this Article challenges the assumption that medical diagnosis of “defect” must be a prerequisite to disability accommodation eligibility. The social model defines “disability” not as an impairment located within an individual’s body but as the interaction between the individual’s body and her social environment. Within this framework, workers may experience pregnancy, a healthy biological state, as a workplace “disability.” Accordingly, now that workers with temporary physical limitations comparable to pregnancy may receive ADA accommodations, courts should conclude that the ADA’s goal — to reshape the workplace to accommodate previously excluded person — extends to pregnancy.  


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