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Pregnancy Discrimination: More Common Than You Might Think

January 17, 2023 Discrimination

We have come a long way when it comes to the rights of women in the workplace, but there is still work to be done. Women still experience harassment and discrimination at work every day, particularly pregnant women. While these cases are often difficult to prove, you still may be able to pursue a claim if you believe you are a victim of pregnancy discrimination. A pregnancy discrimination lawyer can review your situation and determine whether you may have a case. 

Pregnancy Discrimination Can Be Subtle

As an initial matter, it is important to note that pregnancy discrimination is often well hidden. Most employers recognize that they cannot engage in blatant discrimination toward a pregnant woman. Instead, some unscrupulous employers may therefore engage in discriminatory acts that are more difficult to identify. Regardless, trust your instincts if you believe you are being discriminated against, and seek help from a pregnancy discrimination lawyer as soon as possible. 

Unintentional Pregnancy Discrimination: Disparate Impact 

Believe it or not, workplace discrimination can be unintentional. This usually happens when the employer implements a policy that has a disparate impact on a protected class of people such as pregnant women. In this situation, you do not have to prove what your employer intended, only that the policy impacts pregnant women or women with pregnancy-related conditions in a way that it does not impact other workers. 

Once you make the claim that the policy has a disparate impact, your employer can demonstrate that they have a compelling business necessity that requires the policy and there are no viable alternatives. If they cannot meet this burden of proof, then the policy is discriminatory and your employer can be held accountable. 

Unintentional Pregnancy Discrimination and Reasonable Accommodations

Pregnancy, by itself, is not considered a disability under the law. However, pregnant women may suffer a variety of conditions that may be considered temporary disabilities. In these situations, the employee may be entitled to request a reasonable accommodation. A reasonable accommodation may include the following: 

  • Allowing the employee to perform their job while seated rather than remain standing throughout their shift
  • Allowing the employee to work on the first floor to avoid stairs
  • Providing the employee with a parking space close to the entrance
  • Allowing the employee to avoid tasks that require heavy lifting
  • Allowing the employee to work different hours 

Unfortunately, many employers will deny a request for reasonable accommodation for a variety of reasons – they forgot about the request, they didn’t want to bother with the administrative hassle, or they simply didn’t understand their obligations. Regardless of why it was denied, it is discriminatory if they have granted similar requests to other temporarily disabled employees. If you have experienced this situation, you should contact a pregnancy discrimination lawyer to discuss your rights. 

Common Examples of Pregnancy Discrimination

Aside from discriminatory policies and failure to provide reasonable accommodations, pregnancy discrimination can take on many different forms. Some of the most common examples of pregnancy discrimination include the following: 

  • Refusing to hire a qualified candidate because she is pregnant or plans to get pregnant
  • Firing an employee because they are pregnant or plan to become pregnant
  • Refusing to grant leave under FMLA or CFRA
  • Refusal to provide reasonable accommodation for pregnancy-related disabilities
  • Demoting a pregnant employee or passing them over for promotion
  • Giving an employee a less desirable assignment when they return from pregnancy-related leave, relocating them to a less desirable workplace, changing their job duties or hours
  • Limiting their opportunities for advancement
  • Docking a pregnant woman’s pay for missing work due to pregnancy-related complications
  • Retaliation as a result of filing a complaint concerning pregnancy-related discrimination

Of course, your pregnancy does not entitle you to preferential treatment. However, you cannot be discriminated against due to your pregnancy nor can your employer refuse to provide a reasonable accommodation that they would give to other temporarily disabled employees. If you have experienced any discrimination whatsoever, you should contact a pregnancy discrimination lawyer as soon as possible. 

What to Do if You Have Been Discriminated Against Due to Pregnancy

Being pregnant is hard enough, but facing discrimination as a result of your pregnancy can be overwhelming. Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself: 

  • Keep careful notes. You want to be sure to keep detailed records of the dates and times that any discriminatory incidents occurred and who was involved. 
  • File a complaint. You may need to refer to your employment manual for any complaint procedures concerning discrimination. You want to be sure to follow the procedure as it is laid out so that your employer cannot claim that your complaint was lost. If your employer does not have a complaint procedure, file your complaint with HR or whoever the appropriate manager would be. Lastly, your complaint should be made in writing and you should keep a copy for your records. 
  • Document any follow-up action. If you need to pursue a discrimination claim, you need to be able to demonstrate that no action was taken or that the action taken was inadequate. 
  • Seek support from trusted co-workers. Even if they did not witness the discrimination firsthand, they may be able to testify as to the stress you were experiencing or a decline in your performance as a result of the discrimination. 
  • Talk to a lawyer. A lawyer can provide you with confidential advice and guide you through the entire process. That way, your case will be as strong as possible if you need to pursue a claim. 

Contact Attorneys for Employees Today about Your Pregnancy Discrimination Claim

Discrimination as a pregnant worker can be paralyzing, but you are not powerless. We understand the challenges you face and can help you put them behind you. Let us be your advocate – call us today at 310-601-1330 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.