Pregnancy discrimination is a specific type of discrimination that women face when they become pregnant. This discrimination prevents them from being able to take time off work to have a child and raise them, making pregnancy economically perilous and increasing the risk of harm to both the mother and the child. Here are just some of the most common ways that employers discriminate against pregnant employees:
- Firing or laying off pregnant workers
- One of the most common ways employers discriminate against pregnant employees is by simply firing them, rather than giving them their legally guaranteed maternity leave. However, employers are rarely that straightforward, and will simply fire a pregnant employee as part of broader staff cuts. As Steven Sack notes in his book Fired!: “During an economic downturn, employers often attempt to mask pregnancy discrimination as layoffs and downsizing, which often makes it harder to prove the underlying discriminatory motivation.”
- Refusing to allow an employee to return from maternity leave
- Rather than outright firing a pregnant employee, some employers will simply refuse to allow an employee who has recently given birth to return to her position. In a shocking number of pregnancy discrimination cases, a recent mother may not even be informed of this, and return from maternity leave only to find her position has been filled in the interim. When this happens, a recent mother may suddenly find herself without a job with no warning and no ability to prepare for the harm to her family’s finances.
- Asking illegal questions about a woman’s marital status or pregnancy status
- Employees cannot be legally required to answer questions about their marital status or their pregnancy status. This is to protect them from employers who may discriminate against them because they are pregnant, or because they are likely to become pregnant in the near future. If they have this information, it may inform their future labor decisions, and an employee who is pregnant or is looking to become pregnant could face a higher chance of losing her job during a round of layoffs.
- Refusing to grant maternity leave
- Another potential type of pregnancy discrimination employees may face involves being refused maternity leave. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), every employee is legally permitted to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave to deal with family and medical issues, on top of any paid leave permitted by a company’s policies. Some employers will refuse to grant this leave, however, penalizing employees for missing work due to pregnancy and maternity issues.
- Refusing to grant reasonable accommodations
- Many women are able to keep working long into their pregnancies, provided they are afforded certain reasonable accommodations. In this regard, pregnancy can be considered a disability protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). When employers fail to give these accommodations to pregnant employees, it can place their life and health, as well as the life and health of her unborn child, at unnecessary risk, and can even chase them out of her job.
Steven Mitchell Sack, the Employee’s Lawyer, is a New York employment lawyer with more than 41 years’ experience handling the many aspects of employment law. His new book, “Fired!: Protect Your Rights & FIGHT BACK If You’re Terminated, Laid Off, Downsized, Restructured, Forced to Resign or Quit,” is available in hardback, and contains valuable advice on dealing with employment and labor law issues. To purchase the book, feel free to contact Steven Sack at 917-371-8000 or visit the website at legalstratpub.com. To inquire about a legal matter, please feel free to contact attorney Steven Sack at 917-371-8000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.