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Pregnancy Discrimination

Employers have a legal obligation to treat pregnant workers the same as any other employee in the workplace, and if this obligation is not fulfilled, they can be held liable for their misconduct.

Pregnancy Discrimination Laws

Pregnancy was not initially a protected category covered by federal law. However, pregnant women are now protected under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which is an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act states employers cannot treat pregnant women differently because of their pregnancy. For example, an employer cannot avoid hiring pregnant women because he is under the impression they don’t do their job as well as other employees. This is a form of pregnancy discrimination, and it is illegal under federal law.

But, that’s not the only way pregnant women can be discriminated against at work. Pregnant women are protected at all times during their employment, beginning at the hiring process and extending to cover compensation, job benefits, and termination.

Issues With Maternity Leave

Many pregnancy discrimination cases are related to a pregnant woman’s right to maternity leave. If an employer makes unlawful demands related to your maternity leave, you have every right to seek justice against this form of pregnancy discrimination.

Although state laws differ, the general rule of thumb is employers must allow pregnant women to take the same type of leave as other temporarily disabled workers. For example, if an employer has a policy that states temporarily disabled workers can take an unpaid leave for up to six weeks without losing their jobs, this same benefit should be offered to pregnant women.

Keep in mind pregnant women are covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which ensures every woman who goes on maternity leave gets a minimum amount of time with their newborn child. FMLA states pregnant women are allowed to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave in order to care for their newborn. In fact, FMLA gives fathers the same right to twelve weeks of unpaid leave to bond with their newborn if they wish.

Pregnancy & Job Duties

Some pregnancies are more complicated than others. In some cases, pregnant women may be unable to perform their job duties. If the condition that prevents you from being able to work qualifies as a disability, you may be protected by both the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act. This means you will enjoy additional benefits that are provided in the ADA, including the right to ask your employer to accommodate your disability. Employers can do this by temporarily giving you new job duties or adjusting your work schedule to accommodate your pregnancy-related disability.

Possible Examples of Pregnancy Discrimination

Some possible examples of pregnancy discrimination include:
  • Refusing to hire a mother because they are pregnant
  • Not providing a reasonable accommodation while pregnant
  • Negative comments about pregnancy or need to take leave
  • Firing a pregnant employee
  • Harassing an employee for being pregnant
  • Failure to allow an employee to return to her job after maternity leave
  • Basing recruitment decisions based on pregnancy
  • Forcing an employee to take time off, change job, or denying promotion because pregnant
  • Firing or treating an employee differently because they need to pump breast milk
  • Inappropriate comments about the need for a breast pump

Victims of Pregnancy Discrimination

Women are often unaware they are protected against discrimination while they are pregnant, but this is an important law that should not be overlooked. Pregnant women should not be treated any differently than other employees in the workplace, but unfortunately, that is not always the case. If you are a victim of pregnancy discrimination, contact Shegerian Conniff to speak with a team of compassionate, experienced employment law attorneys today.

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