Pregnancy Discrimination

Pregnancy itself can be an exciting, stressful, overwhelming experience. It also creates added stress for working women who have to decide how to tell their employer they are expecting and coordinate maternity leave. What happens when an employer is less than accommodating to a pregnant employee?

Federal law provides that an employer cannot discriminate against employees because they are pregnant. The law treats pregnancy as a medical condition: it must be treated the same way as other medical conditions with similar employment effects. An employer must treat a pregnant woman the same way it treats anyone else who has a medical condition that may require missing work. The key requirement is consistency.

Can my employer require me to stop working because I am pregnant?

Generally no. Even if your employment conditions could be deemed dangerous to the fetus, your employer cannot force you to quit. It once again becomes a matter of consistency – your employer cannot treat you differently than it would anyone else just because you are expecting.

Can my employer require a certain amount of notice of my pregnancy?

If you will be taking leave, you have to follow the notice requirements set by your employer. Generally, those requirements should be the same for anyone taking a family or medical leave. The notice requirements cannot differ based on the reason for the leave. For example, your employer cannot require 90 days notice of a pregnancy leave and only 30 days notice to care for an ailing parent.

How do I prove a pregnancy discrimination claim?

Pregnancy discrimination claims are generally proven through circumstantial evidence, just as any other discrimination claim is proven. The facts of pregnancy discrimination cases are often very similar: an employee receives glowing reviews until she announces she is expecting. Suddenly her performance is heavily criticized and she is told that if she does not improve she will be fired. Make sure you ask a lot of questions about the alleged problems with your performance and document everything. If you think something is fishy, it is important to keep track of your concerns and how your employer addressed them. That circumstantial evidence will be important if you decide to pursue a claim.

What do I do if I was the victim of pregnancy discrimination?

There are procedures you must follow to preserve your claim. There are also strict timelines for such claims. I may be retained to investigate whether you have a discrimination claim.

2 Comments

  1. I gave notice to HR and my CEO of my high-risk pregnancy on 9/23 and 9/25, and this Thursday (9/29) I was told my position was being ‘eliminated’ with one day’s notice, after glowing performance reviews dating back over four years. I am looking for help in deciding if this is something I can fight. I would like a better severance package. Thanks for your help!

  2. Kristin:

    This is the type of case that deserves attention and a detailed analysis from an attorney. The timing of your notice of pregnancy and the notice of termination will be crucial. Employees in this type of situation should contact an attorney immediately to obtain legal advise based on their specific circumstances.

    Aaron

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