Discrimination Law

Pregnancy Discrimination

Getting pregnant is a joyous time for most. Unfortunately, coworkers and bosses sometimes treat pregnant women poorly. This discrimination can lead to low morale and a hostile work environment. The good news is the United States has protections for pregnant workers.

This article discusses pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. State laws vary. You should contact an employment lawyer in your area. An experienced attorney can explain your state’s laws. They can also give you legal advice about your situation.

What Is Pregnancy Discrimination?

Employment discrimination is when you’re mistreated at work because of some protected reason. Unlawful discrimination requires you to be treated differently because of a protected class. Examples include race, national origin, and sex discrimination.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prevent discrimination of employees on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Pregnancy discrimination is discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, which includes the following:

  • Current pregnancy
  • Past pregnancy
  • Potential pregnancy
  • Medical conditions associated with childbirth
  • Breastfeeding
  • Abortion

Discrimination involves treating an employee differently based on their status. Your employer can’t make employment decisions based on your pregnancy, including:

  • Hiring
  • Firing
  • Promotion
  • Compensation
  • Job assignment
  • Training
  • Benefits like health insurance

It’s also illegal to harass you because you’re pregnant or have a pregnancy-related condition.

What Is a Reasonable Accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is a change to an aspect of your job that allows you to do your work. Your boss must provide a reasonable accommodation unless it causes an undue hardship. For example, when the accommodation will cost an excessive amount of money.

Federal and state laws require accommodations for a disability. So, your boss must accommodate you if you have a pregnancy-related disability. For instance, providing a reasonable break time and a private place to express breast milk is a reasonable accommodation. Another example is putting you on light duty while you’re pregnant.

Is Providing Maternity Leave Discrimination?

No. Employers can limit leave for pregnancy-related medical conditions to women. But employers must give female employees the same medical benefits as men. For example, if your employer doesn’t ask for a note from your health care provider to miss work means they can’t ask you for a note for a pregnancy-related absence.

The rules are different when it comes to parental leave. Parental leave is leave to bond with or care for a child. Some employers allow you to take leave after you recuperate from giving birth to bond with your baby. Those employers must let men take the same parental leave as women. The terms of the leave must also be the same.

Who Do Pregnancy Discrimination Laws Cover?

Federal anti-discrimination laws apply to private employers, labor unions, and employment agencies. State and local governments are also included. The employer also must have 15 or more employees. However, some state laws cover smaller employers.

How Do I Report Pregnancy Discrimination?

Most employers have procedures for reporting discrimination to their human resources department (HR). Employees who are targeted because of pregnancy or childbirth can file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You can also file a complaint with your state’s civil rights division.

How Do I Prove Pregnancy Discrimination?

Winning a pregnancy discrimination claim can be difficult. Take the following steps to improve your chances:

  • Document any incidents of discrimination you experience. Be on the lookout for questionable timing. For example, your boss gives you a less desirable work schedule soon after you tell them you’re pregnant.
  • Document the accommodations you requested. Include whether your boss granted the accommodation. Also include the reason your boss denied your request.
  • Compare your treatment to coworkers. Look for preferential treatment for people who aren’t pregnant. For example, suppose your boss denies your request for temporary disability. It could be discrimination if your boss approves a similar request from a non-pregnant employee.

What Can I Win in a Pregnancy Discrimination Case?

The damages available in a pregnancy discrimination case include the following:

  • Reinstatement if you lose your job
  • Back pay for lost wages
  • Front pay for future lost wages
  • Compensatory damages for harm including emotional distress and mental anguish
  • Punitive damages if the discrimination was egregious
  • Reimbursement for attorney’s fees and legal costs

Contact an Employment Lawyer for Help With Your Case

Working in a discriminatory office can be a challenge for pregnant employees. Being mistreated by your boss doesn’t make pregnancy any easier. State and federal laws make pregnancy discrimination at work illegal. Contact an employment lawyer if you’re the victim of discrimination. Discrimination cases can be challenging to navigate. An attorney can explain the laws and help you file a discrimination complaint.

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