Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace
By Space Coast Daily // August 12, 2019
The biggest misconception regarding pregnancy discrimination is that it only affects pregnant women. The term extends further, including unjust treatment of women because of childbirth, pregnancy, or any medical condition related to childbirth or pregnancy.
Pregnancy discrimination in the workplace occurs when a worker gets discriminated on the basis of childbirth, pregnancy or other similar conditions.
Such discrimination may include denial of reasonable accommodations or time off for pregnant employees, demoting or firing a pregnant worker, restrictions or forced time off on work, and other negative actions taken due to a worker’s pregnancy or similar medical conditions.
Federal laws against pregnancy discrimination?
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was passed into law in 1978, making pregnancy discrimination completely illegal in the US. The PDA protects female employees from being fired or discriminated against due to pregnancy, childbirth or similar medical conditions.
Even though this law has been in existence for the past 40 years, pregnant women still encounter discrimination in offices. In fact, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received in 2016 close to 3,500 charges of pregnancy discrimination.
The number of such charges has risen to 65 percent between 1992 to 2007.
The next big law against discrimination came 30 years later, with the expansion of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 2008. The act was updated to acknowledge that some pregnancy-related conditions could be seen as a disability. Due to this, workers are needed to make accommodations for ladies with these conditions.
Examples of potential pregnancy discrimination
There’s no doubt that in today’s workplace, pregnancy discrimination is a common occurrence. It is vital to firmly understand how it can manifest itself. Below are some examples of how such discrimination could take place.
- Refusing to hire a pregnant woman
It is illegal for an employee to refuse to hire or consider you for a role on the basis that you are pregnant or may become pregnant.
The law frowns against employees turning away from qualified candidates because they are trying to avoid interruptions in workflow, or they make assumptions on the potential behavior of the candidate during pregnancy or after childbirth.
Also, when it comes to working conditions, including job assignments, pay, layoffs, promotions, training, firing and other conditions of employment, the law prohibits discrimination.
- Harassment of a pregnant employee
Even though occasional derogatory statements may not be tagged harassment, frequent conduct such as offensive jokes, insults, intimidation, threats and physical assaults that interferes with a pregnant employee and creates an unfriendly working environment constitutes harassment. Such harassment can be carried out by a co-worker, business partner, supervisor, or by customers.
Another way of carrying out such harassment is refusing breastfeeding mothers from feeding their kids.
The Affordable Care Act makes it mandatory for employers with over 50 employees to give female workers breaks to breastfeed in a private and safe room aside from the restroom.
- Firing a pregnant employee
Most cases of pregnancy discrimination occur when a manager blatantly fires a pregnant worker because he feels she will not be able to perform her duties.
Although such a manager may have good intentions, like being concerned about the safety of the pregnant worker on the job, it’s still considered illegal to fire or discriminate against a pregnant employee due to such concerns.
For instance, if a job requires heavy lifting or being around hazardous chemicals, the safety of the worker and her unborn child solely depends on her and her doctor, not her employee.
- Failure to provide necessary accommodations
If a worker has some complications as a result of being pregnant, she must get the same accommodations as other workers with medical impairments.
For instance, if a worker injures his back and is given a light-duty assignment until he fully recovers, a pregnant employee should also be given such reasonable accommodations to undertake like-duty tasks during her pregnancy. Some accommodations include chancing the work schedule of a pregnant employee if she has serious morning sickness.
- Stopping an employee from taking a pregnancy-related medical leave
According to the PDA, it is required by a manager to allow a worker who has physical limitations as a result of pregnancy to take leave under the same conditions as other employees who have similar ability or inability.
For instance, it is against the law for an employee to:
- Fire a pregnant employee who goes on leave
- Force a pregnant worker to take a shorter leave than what is medically required for her condition
- Stop an employee from taking leave without pay
How to File a Complain
Victims of pregnancy discrimination can hire a NY discrimination attorney and get remedies such as back pay, hiring, promotion reinstatement, front pay, compensations, and punitive damages.
Laws against discrimination give you a limited amount of time to file a complaint. Generally, you’re given 180 days from the day the discrimination happened to file a charge.
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