As a woman in the workplace, you have the right to be free from any kind of discriminatory behavior on the basis of pregnancy, pregnancy-related medical issues, or childbirth. The 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act is a federal law that protects women from being fired or discriminated against for any of the above-mentioned reasons. While the federal law has been established for decades and although states even offer additional pregnancy discrimination protections under the law, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) receives over 3,000 complaints yearly regarding pregnancy discrimination, and the number is only increasing each year. The following are the most common examples of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.
Refusal to Hire
If you were not hired for a position because you were pregnant, this conduct on the part of your prospective employer is legal and forms the basis for an EEOC claim. A company is not legally allowed to refuse to hire someone because they are pregnant or just gave birth.
If you were fired because you are pregnant, you have a right to file a discrimination lawsuit. To prevail, you will have to prove that the reason you were terminated was due to pregnancy and not some other reason. Your employer has the right to fire you for other reasons while pregnant, like performance problems or insubordination, but your pregnancy status cannot be the reason for this adverse employment action.
Harassment in the workplace related to pregnancy can include actions such as intimidation, insults, harassing comments over pumping breast milk, or failing to allow a pregnant woman to be involved in different corporate activities. Offensive jokes, insults or intimidation could all create a hostile work environment and form the basis of a claim against your employer.
Changing Employment Expectations
Reducing the number of hours that a woman works based on her pregnancy, or employing other tactics to limit her production, which could lead to firing, may also form a basis for a pregnancy discrimination claim. Additionally, forcing a woman to take time off, change job assignments, preventing her from attending career-building training, or passing her up for a promotion due to her pregnancy are all illegal forms of discrimination.
If a pregnant woman requests reasonable accommodations from her employer, they must attempt to provide those accommodations under the law. Providing a different workstation, allowing a woman to sit during her duties, or changing a schedule due to morning sickness should all be allowed by an employer, so long as the accommodation does not cause the employer an undue hardship. If you feel your employer is not responding to your requests for reasonable accommodations in the workplace, you may have a pregnancy discrimination claim.
Denying or Restricting FMLA Leave
Under the Family Medical Leave Act, a woman has certain rights during pregnancy and after the birth of her baby. All non-exempt employers must allow a woman to take sick leave before using other types of leave for any medical condition related to the pregnancy. They must also allow a woman to take the same leave as the employer allows for short-term disability leave or medical leave, allow the woman to return to the same or similar job upon returning from maternity leave, and allow her to return to a job with the same pay, benefits, and terms and conditions of her employment.
Contact an Experienced Attorney Today
If you feel you were discriminated in the workplace based on your pregnancy, pregnancy-related medical condition, or following the birth of your child, please contact the Law Offices of Jeremy Pasternak at 415-373-1287 or online to discuss your options.