3 ways pregnancy discrimination manifests in the workplace

On Behalf of | May 17, 2024 | Employment Law |

Pregnancy is a potentially debilitating medical condition, but certainly not for everyone. Most women work throughout their pregnancies. Yet, there is no doubt that every woman has different medical needs when she is expecting. Some women only have to worry about weight restrictions for lifting later in pregnancy. Others may have issues with pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes or other high-risk pregnancy circumstances.

Typically, workers have certain protections under federal and state laws that allow them to maintain their jobs throughout their pregnancy and after giving birth. Employers should not consider pregnancy when making employment decisions. Unfortunately, pregnancy discrimination is quite common. The following are the most typical manifestations of workplace pregnancy discrimination.

Unjustified termination

Employers often find a way to justify the termination of a pregnant worker. Some companies start enforcing rules against pregnant workers that they don’t enforce with other employees. Other companies might start taking issue with a pregnant worker’s job performance even though her work ethic hasn’t changed. Someone who loses her job while pregnant may question whether that termination was discriminatory.

Refusing to accommodate a worker

Pregnancy is a medical condition that may require certain job accommodations. Most employers have to provide reasonable workplace accommodations if a medical condition prevents someone from doing the job in the traditional manner. Changing someone’s job responsibilities, letting them work from home, granting them more bathroom breaks or reducing their lifting responsibilities can all keep a pregnant woman safe and able to work throughout all three trimesters. Companies that blatantly refuse to accommodate the medical recommendations of a physician treating a pregnant woman may have violated her rights and discriminated against her.

Punishing a worker for taking leave

Many companies have maternity leave policies that allow workers to take paid or unpaid leave after the birth of a child. Even if no such benefits are available, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows many women to take up to 12 weeks of leave over pregnancy complications or the birth of a child. An employer’s refusal to allow a worker to take necessary leave might constitute pregnancy discrimination in certain scenarios.

Discussing the way that an employer has treated a worker after becoming aware of her pregnancy with a skilled legal team could help a victim of unlawful mistreatment to fight back against workplace pregnancy discrimination. Litigation is sometimes an option if a company mistreats a worker specifically because she is pregnant.