Years ago, pregnant women had few rights, but today, things have and are continuing to improve. Even so, pregnancy discrimination still exists. This type of illegal sex discrimination involves a pregnant employee or job candidate being treated differently based on her condition.
Although there are times when a doctor will advise or prohibit a pregnant woman from performing certain duties or working in potentially harmful environments, current laws state that an employer cannot refuse to hire a pregnant woman nor can she be fired because of her condition. It is also considered illegal for an employer to refuse a pregnant woman a promotion, demotion, and specific assignments.
It is important to understand that just because a woman is pregnant does not mean she is given any special rights. However, laws do protect a woman from being treated differently than men and non-pregnant women. If you are expecting a child and feel you have been discriminated against, it is imperative that you speak with a qualified family law attorney. Depending on the situation, you may have legal recourse.
If your attorney believes that there is sufficient direct and circumstantial evidence that pregnancy discrimination occurred, charges can be filed with various state agencies, as well as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The key to successfully fighting your case comes down to evidence.
There must be proof that you were, in fact, treated differently compared to other employees working the same or a similar job. The most compelling evidence gathered is direct, which can include an admission from your employer. However, evidence can also be found in emails, text messages, phone call recordings (if permitted in the state where you work), witnesses, and so on.
Circumstantial evidence is also important. Your attorney will accumulate the facts to determine if they show more than likely that your employer’s actions were discriminatory. This includes not following standard procedures when being fired while still pregnant, being terminated on the day prior to starting maternity leave, unusual or suspicious reasons for termination, and the way that other employees are treated.
Another form of pregnancy discrimination is being forced to take maternity leave while pregnant but physically capable of doing your job. In addition, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects your job while out on maternity leave for up to 12 weeks.
FMLA applies if the company has a minimum of 50 employees and if you worked for the same company for one year and a minimum of 1,250 hours during the prior year’s employment. It also applies if you work for a local, state, or federal government agency. Upon returning to work, you are entitled to have the same or an equivalent job back.
If you feel you are being discriminated against, start taking notes of conversations and incidents, including as many details as possible. Also, talk to trusted co-workers to learn if others have or are having the same experiences. Most importantly, hire a reputable family law attorney. In some instances, a firm letter from your attorney can resolve the problem quickly and satisfactorily. If not, you want an attorney with solid experience who will fight for what is legally yours.