Birth Defects Caused by Parental Exposure to workplace Hazards: The Interface of Title VII with OSHA and Tort Law

This article will examine the problem of workers’ exposure to toxic substances that affect human reproductive functions in light of the applicable legal framework provided by tort law, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA), and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. What employers may do to deal with this problem under existing law, and possible resolutions of some apparent conflicts between the underlying purposes of these laws, will also be delineated. It is the position of this article that the competing interests of employers, workers, and workers’ offspring must be harmonized not by excluding all but the least physically affected workers from the workplace, but by providing a safe, healthy, nondiscriminatory work environment for each worker.

Part I will discuss the effects of toxic hazards on reproductive functions and the scientific problems in ascertaining and evaluating those effects. Part II will examine the employer’s duty to provide a safe workplace and to provide equal employment opportunity. Finally, Part III will apply the legal framework to the problem of work-related birth defects, analyzing the Title VII – OSHA interface and the Title VII – tort interface.