Employers cannot discriminate against a pregnant employee simply because that employee is pregnant. The same applies if the employee has applied for maternity leave. The only exception is when that employee may not be able to perform their job properly because of her pregnancy. A pregnant employee who believes that she has been discriminated against because of her pregnancy may be able to file a complaint with a state or federal anti-discrimination agency that enforces anti-discrimination laws. The employer could face penalties if it can be proven that it has acted illegally.
What is Pregnancy Discrimination?
When an employer has been accused of discriminating against one of their employees—pregnancy discrimination, for example—it is because they have acted against that employee because of their identity or because they belong to a particular category and not because of their work history or inability to do a job. In the case of pregnancy discrimination, there must be proof that the employer has actually discriminated against that pregnant employee or because they have applied for or taken maternity leave and not because they weren’t doing their job properly. When an employer discriminates against an employee because of their pregnancy, or their gender, or age, it is quite common for them to do the same with other—or all—employees who fit that category. So it should be possible to obtain evidence of a discriminatory policy.
Pregnancy discrimination in the workplace is illegal under most state anti-discrimination laws as well as the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, an amendment of the earlier Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 1964.
Examples of Pregnancy Discrimination
Pregnancy discrimination may occur whenever an employer carries out some sort of harmful or negative action against a pregnant employee or an employee who is about to give birth, or has had a birth, and has applied for maternity leave. Examples of pregnancy discrimination include the following actions taken by an employer:
- deliberately refuse to hire someone who’s pregnant;
- fire them because of who they are;
- harass or victimize them openly or through such means as phone calls, texts, emails, notes, verbal taunts or even physical violence;
- not give them overtime when non-SOGI employees are given overtime;
- not offer them promotion despite their work record;
- not pay them the correct rate of pay.
What to Do If You Experienced Discrimination at Work
If you believe you have experienced pregnancy discrimination or have experienced maternal harassment of any sort, you first need to try and bring this to the attention of your HR department or employer directly if possible. Keep a note of everything you have experienced that you think was discrimination. You should also keep records of all the communication you’ve had with your employer. Importantly, these records should include your employer’s responses throughout your communications.
Once you present this evidence of your discrimination to your employer, you will not need to file a claim with a federal or state anti-discrimination agency if—and only if—your employer agrees to stop the discrimination immediately. However, if this does not happen and the discrimination continues, you should file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC), or equivalent state body, stating what has happened and why you believe it is pregnancy discrimination or maternal harassment.
The government agency will investigate the complaint and try and resolve it. Penalties may be imposed on the employer if the matter is in clear breach of the law. And, if the case cannot be resolved satisfactorily, you will be given the option of filing a lawsuit and suing your employer. An employment lawyer would be advisable at this stage.
Get Help With Your Pregnancy Discrimination Claim
Pregnancy discrimination at work—as defined above—is illegal. So is any type of discrimination against an employee who has applied for maternity leave. Complaints of pregnancy discrimination can be filed with government authorities, and, if unsuccessful, you may be able to sue your employer for damages. An employment law attorney can help at any stage of the dispute.
Use the Free Case Evaluation on this page to get connected and speak with a lawyer who can help you today—at zero cost to you!
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