Pregnant women have to plan for the future. In some ways, they need financial stability even more than their co-workers who don’t yet have responsibility for another human. While many pregnant workers are dedicated employees, some companies and individual managers may have a bad attitude toward, or personal bias against, pregnant employees.
Even though federal employment laws list pregnancy as a protected condition that should not lead to discrimination, employers still try to find reasons to get rid of pregnant workers all the time. Knowing how to identify some of the more common forms of pregnancy discrimination will help you know when you have to stand up for yourself.
- They might refuse basic medical accommodations
Pregnancy can be smooth for some women and miserable for others. It can be nearly impossible to predict who will have a healthy pregnancy and who will experience severe side effects like gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia or Rh disease due to a baby’s blood type.
Women who have already had complications or those at high risk may have to follow doctors’ orders to protect their health and their unborn child. Common medical restrictions during pregnancy include requirements for breaks so they can stop standing and even bed rest in extreme cases.
Workers may also need to take more breaks to remain hydrated, or to eat to maintain their blood sugar or stave off the nausea associated with morning sickness. When a company refuses to make these basic accommodations, that decision could be a form of discrimination.
- They might try to deny a new mother unpaid leave
The law does not require that companies offer paid maternity leave. However, if the company is big enough and an employee has worked there long enough, there are laws that give workers the right to take unpaid medical leave after the birth of one’s child or even an adoption.
If your employer meets the criteria for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) but will not let you take time off after birth or during your pregnancy, that could also be pregnancy discrimination.
- They won’t let a mother get back to her old job after the birth
Some companies play along until a worker takes their maternity leaves under the assumption that the worker won’t come back. They promote someone else to their position instead of filling it with a temporary worker. When the new mother tries to come back to her job, she finds that the company doesn’t have space for her anymore.
If your employer fires you, demotes you, cuts your wages or reduces your hours because you took maternity leave, that would also be a form of discrimination. Holding your employer accountable for pregnancy discrimination will help your family bounce back from the impact of such unfair treatment and will also help protect other women from going through the same experience during their pregnancies.