What Are Real Examples of Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace?
Treating Pregnant Workers Worse
Pregnancy is a status protected under federal law from discrimination. Treating pregnant persons worse than others may be sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In addition, it may violate the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
Firing a worker upon discovering that they are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant or have entered into a relationship that might end in pregnancy can be prohibited discrimination in the workplace.
Refusing to hire a worker because they are pregnant or are likely to become pregnant in time may also be discrimination. Hiring or keeping such a worker on but paying them less, giving them worse opportunities or hours, or imposing bad terms or conditions of work on them may also be prohibited.
Even supposedly neutral policies that have a different and worse effect on pregnant persons and lack certain justifications or reasons may violate Title VII or the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
Denying Family or Medical Leave
Not giving a pregnant person time off for medical reasons may be prohibited discrimination. When pregnancy does not result in the same time off as other medical conditions that have a comparable effect on a person, the result may be sex discrimination. Firing a pregnant or about to be pregnant person after they raise a request or need for family or medical leave falls in a similar category. Demoting or denying opportunities to a worker who took medical leave or requests some may also be discriminatory.
The Family and Medical Leave Act imposes duties on companies with 50 or more employees, government agencies, and public and private elementary and secondary schools. Covered employers must provide a qualifying employee (typically one who has worked for a long enough period) with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for needs such as giving birth, taking care of the newborn child of an employee, taking care of an older child’s health condition, doing the same for a parent or spouse, accepting a child for adoption or from foster care, or time off due to a “serious health condition.”
Cutting short leave when it is needed may be unlawful too. This may raise questions about anti-woman or anti-pregnancy bias. Refusing to give the same job back after a leave may raise these questions too.
New York state has the strongest and most comprehensive Paid Family Leave policy in America. Caring for newborns or other loved ones and pursuing a career is no longer a tough choice.
Denying Rest Breaks, Time for Doctor's Appointments, or Time for Breastfeeding
Medical leave for a serious health condition, up to a certain limit, is guaranteed by the Family and Medical Leave Act. In addition, under the Americans with Disabilities Act employees have a right to reasonable accommodations to help them perform their jobs. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, a federal law, gives pregnant workers the same access to leave as other employees who injured or ill for temporary periods.
Race discrimination in employment can also happen during pregnancy-related discrimination. African-American, Asian-American, Native American, or Hispanic women may not have the same access to leave, or accommodations of their pregnancy-related conditions. These differences can be evidence of racial discrimination in employment.
Failing to Accommodate Pregnancy-related Needs
The Americans with Disabilities Act gives employees the right to reasonable accommodation of pregnancy-related conditions. Pregnancy itself may not be a disability, but it can give rise to conditions like back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, pain sitting or standing, difficulty sleeping, blood clots, lightheadedness, anxiety, depression, and others that may be disabilities. The law’s coverage depends on the extent of a “disability,” its effect on being qualified to work with an accommodation, and a balancing or interaction between employer needs and what is reasonable for the employee to do. The law contains protections against being fired or treated worse due to a disability, and to a reasonable accommodation of their job role that is negotiated between employer and employee.
Since 2016, New York state law gives pregnant workers the right to reasonable accommodations for any pregnancy-related conditions, including:
• occasional rest or water breaks,
• a modified hourly or daily schedule,
• leave for related medical treatment or recovery,
• available less strenuous assignments, and
• transfers away from dangerous jobs.
After pregnancy, New York gives the right to take reasonable unpaid break time or to use paid break time or meal time each day, to collect breast milk at work, for up to three years following childbirth.
It is important to know your rights when it comes to pregnancy discrimination and penalties for taking leave. A free consultation can help you understand your rights and take action to protect them, including by contacting human resources or the government.