You are going to have a baby. Perhaps you are already pregnant, or you and your partner have just made the decision to have a child. Whatever your situation, the tidings you joyfully shared with family and friends may not sound so joyful to your boss. In fact, many women hesitate to break the news to their employers because they fear the negative repercussions.
However, because of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, your rights on the job are protected from any unfavorable treatment that singles you out while you are pregnant, after you give birth or if you should suffer any medical conditions related to your pregnancy. Understanding your rights will help you recognize when your employer is violating them.
Examples of pregnancy discrimination
Like other types of discrimination, pregnancy discrimination is a civil rights violation. Often, these unfair and illegal actions are based on assumptions and stereotypes about women, and so they may fall under sex discrimination as well. For example, if your employer assumes you will be distracted or less committed to your job once you have a baby, he or she may cut your hours, demote you, or give you less prestigious assignments. Some other common examples of pregnancy discrimination include the following:
- Forcing you to resign or take leave while you are still able and willing to work
- Firing you after finding out you are pregnant or refusing to hire you because of your pregnancy or your intention to become pregnant
- Refusing to consider you for a promotion or forcing you to take a demotion
- Deciding your work is substandard simply because you are pregnant
- Firing you or harassing you for wanting to pump breast milk or nurse your baby, or refusing to provide a clean, private place for you to pump or nurse
- Refusing to accommodate your reasonable requests, such as restrictions from lifting or prolonged standing
- Refusing to allow time off and comply with other rules under the Family Medical Leave Act, including keeping your job open for your return from leave
Whether such policies are included in the employee handbook or simply a common practice, they are unacceptable and an abuse of your rights. An employer may not retaliate against you for taking your lawful leave or for complaining about any discriminatory behavior. If you experience these or other examples of mistreatment on the job because of your pregnancy, you would be wise to keep careful records and discuss your situation with a skilled attorney.