You’ve been fired while you’re pregnant. This may have been an illegal act. Depending on the situation, your employer may have done so illegally. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) makes it illegal for companies to fire you for one of these reasons:
- You are/were pregnant.
- You’re trying to become pregnant
- You’re having complications or have a medical condition related to your pregnancy.
- You have or are planning to terminate your pregnancy.
In addition to being barred from firing you, your employer cannot move you to a lower position due to fear you can’t meet your job duties while pregnant, require you to take a leave of absence, or refuse to promote you based on your pregnancy.
You have the right to ask for special accommodations that allow you to keep working. If you need to take more bathroom breaks or sit down each hour to take the pressure off your back, your boss cannot fire you for needing to go to the bathroom more often. You cannot get fired for needing to take more breaks to sit down.
Things Your Employer Can Suggest
What your employer can do is offer to move you to a different position temporarily. If your pregnancy is putting other worker’s safety in jeopardy or you cannot do your usual job duties, other accommodations may be made. For example, if you’re pregnant, certain chemicals, heavy metals, and radiation may affect your fetus’s development. Your employer may try to prioritize keeping you and your baby safe. At that point, you may be offered the chance to switch jobs temporarily. Your employer cannot force you to take this reassignment. If you’re fired because the offer was made and you refused, it’s a violation of laws.
If you cannot do your job and there isn’t another job your employer can move you to, for now, your employer may recommend unpaid leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) will help protect your job while you take up to 12 weeks off. Some states offer additional protection.
Pregnancy Disability Leave in California
California Gov. Code, § 12945 protects pregnant workers under California laws. There’s no restriction on how long you’ve worked for your employer. If you’re pregnant and have a pregnancy disability such as severe morning sickness, preeclampsia, or gestational diabetes, you’re protected under this law. You have the right to be accommodated during your pregnancy and to take off time from work as long as your workplace has at least five employees.
The Pregnancy Disability Leave law allows you at least four months of unpaid leave. You can split this time up by working four hours a day instead of eight. You’re also allowed special accommodations that allow you to keep working. Special accommodations include:
- Transferring you to another department or job where it’s less strenuous temporarily.
- Providing an ergonomic chair for you instead of requiring you to stand for your entire shift.
- Having a co-worker perform a job duty you cannot currently perform while pregnant, such as running the x-ray machine when seeing a patient.
- Allowing extra breaks with longer durations than normal.
When your pregnancy ends, you’ll be allowed to return to your normal job duties as soon as you’re ready and return from maternity leave. Your employer cannot refuse to take you back. If your job is no longer available due to restructuring, you’ll be provided a similar job for the same salary and benefits package.
What Do You Do If You Are Fired?
What if you’re fired anyway? What do you do then? Talk to a pregnancy discrimination attorney. You cannot be punished or fired for needing special accommodations or time off due to your pregnancy. You’ll need to file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing if you’re in California. You have a year in which you can do this. You may also be able to report your employer to the Equal Opportunity Commission.
This can be confusing in an already stressful time. It’s best to reach out to an attorney who specializes in employment law. You don’t pay any money upfront. Consultations are free. The attorney only gets paid when you win your case. Don’t let worry about financial strain keep you from seeking justice.
Shegerian Conniff stands up to discrimination in the workplace. If you’re unjustly fired because of your pregnancy, the laws are behind you. The attorneys specialize in employment law and are available to discuss your pregnancy discrimination case 24/7. Consultations are free. Get started today by calling (310) 322-7500.