Women who undergo fertility treatments know how time consuming and sometimes unpredictable the process can be. Because of the need for frequent monitoring, blood checks, and sonograms, working women find their schedules at times hard to manage. It can be very frustrating trying to balance the frequent medical appointments with the stress of their normal daily lives.
However, there is hope for women worried about having to take time off for treatment. A new verdict made in July in a Chicago Federal Appeals Court stated that under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, women cannot be fired for needing time off for infertility treatments. The ruling came after a secretary undergoing in vitro fertilization, asked for more time off to try a second round of treatment after the first round failed. The employer didn’t allow it and quickly fired her stating absenteeism for infertility treatments as the reason. After hearing the case, the court ruled that she could sue her former employer for pregnancy related bias.
This was the first case of its kind in a public court hearing. For now, the ruling only covers the states of Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin, but many people are hoping that this result could influence other courts to adopt the decision as well.
Infertility as a Medical Condition
This issue brings up the growing decision to recognize infertility as a medical problem. Right now 13 states require insurance companies to cover infertile women undergoing fertility treatments. Furthermore, Under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), workers are entitled up to 12 weeks unpaid time off for a serious health condition. This includes women taking time off for IVF and other fertility related treatments.
In addition to the time consuming medical visits mentioned previously, some doctors recommend that women be on bed rest after an embryo transfer is performed. The patient in this case took 20 days off for bed rest alone. Women also require recovery time after undergoing general anesthesia during egg retrieval.
(Aside: There is no medical data that supports bed rest as a means to increase pregnancy rates in IVF cycles. Patients at IVF1 may return to work twenty-four hours after an egg retrieval and immediately after an embryo transfer.)
Women wanting to take on these treatments usually will try everything to get them done. This ruling is great news for women who don’t want to worry about the repercussions of taking time off.
Women everywhere should consider this a victory. Infertility causes many burdens, frustration, and heartache for a lot of couples. It is recognized as a medical condition and should be treated as such. Hopefully in the future, other states will adopt these laws that protect against discrimination towards infertility.