Identifying pregnancy discrimination at work

It can be joyous to discover you’re pregnant, so it’s natural to feel excited to share the news with the people in your life. However, many women feel they have to tread lightly in the workplace when revealing their big news, because they fear discrimination from their employer or colleagues. Sadly, in far too many cases, their hesitance and caution could mean the difference between making ends meet and struggling to survive.

The problem has grown significantly over the past few decades, with an approximately 80% increase having been recorded between 1992 and 2010. This is often attributed to the fact that women have not only begun entering the workforce in much greater numbers than in the past—currently, around 47% of the workforce is female—but have also been forced to work out of necessity, given the increase in single mothers rearing children alone.

So how can women spot pregnancy discrimination? It can be tricky, especially considering that it doesn’t require actually being pregnant to have discrimination lobbed at you. Here’s a breakdown of the most insidious forms of pregnancy discrimination:

  • Being passed over for a promotion or raise because of pregnancy – Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects against this.
  • Dissolving or changing your job during a pregnancy leave – pregnancy must be treated like any other short-term disability, and pregnant women must be given the same rights as any other worker on disability, including accommodating work limitations for the duration of the pregnancy.
  • Being asked to alter the original terms of the job or its duties – this could include having the hours or shifts changed, cutting back on hours, being asked to do a different job altogether, or even being asked to pay a higher insurance deductible or sacrifice PTO.
  • Denying you the 12 weeks of unpaid leave you’re legally entitled to – under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you’re entitled to take this time during any 12-month period, and to retain health benefits in addition to job retention.
  • Not getting hired because of pregnancy, or even potential pregnancy – not only is it illegal to pass up a job candidate because of a pregnancy, it’s also illegal to refuse to hire someone who is presumed to be on the precipice of getting pregnant. Young women sometimes face this form of discrimination when an employer refuses to hire women of child-bearing age for certain jobs.

If you suspect you’re being discriminated against because of pregnancy, you have legal options. An experienced attorney can help you establish a case and fight for your right to work.

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