Once upon a time, women in the workforce hid their pregnancies as long as they could — if they wanted to stay employed. As soon as a woman started “showing,” she could bet that a pink slip was on the way.
The 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act made discrimination on all aspects of pregnancy and childbirth (including nursing) illegal — but even four decades of social progress doesn’t mean all employers will comply with the law.
Examples of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace
Sure, you may know that firing you because you’re pregnant isn’t legal, but do you recognize these actions as other forms of pregnancy discrimination?
- Not hiring you because you might get pregnant. No hiring manager should ask you intrusive questions about your family planning. If they do, they’re probably looking to “weed out” any applicants who may need time off for pregnancy.
- Refusing to make reasonable accommodations. If you need to sit down while you do your job while you’re pregnant or you need a light-duty assignment for a while, your employer is expected to treat your pregnancy like any other medical condition that deserves accommodation.
- Not giving you the ability to express milk. Unless the company can prove that doing so is an undue hardship, nursing mothers must be given the opportunity to pump their breast milk in a safe, private place — and a bathroom doesn’t count.
- Derogatory comments or acts of retaliation from co-workers. Sometimes, the discrimination comes from an employee’s co-workers. They may resent the “special privileges” (in the form of reasonable accommodations) the pregnant worker may have. Your employer cannot turn a blind eye to insults, slurs and acts of retaliation on their watch.
Pregnancy discrimination can happen at all levels of employment, whether you’re an ordinary factory worker or a highly-placed company officer. If you believe you may have a valid discrimination claim, it may be time to explore all your legal options.