Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace: An In-Depth Look

Over the past few years, society has become more accepting of cultural, gender, and ethnic differences. This is highly evident in modern workplaces, now more inclusive of different people. Because of this development, employees can work in a safe space that allows them to perform at their best.

While workplace diversity is definitely improving, there’s still some work to do. The office can still be a breeding ground for tension, and it’s unfortunate that discrimination remains prevalent. Apart from religion, gender, or race, another group commonly subjected to harassment is pregnant women.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Fair Employment Practices Agencies (FEPAs), over 50,000 pregnancy discrimination claims were filed within the last decade. Discrimination may come out in overt and subtle forms; nonetheless, managers must take the necessary measures to prevent such instances.

To help you out, this guide will provide an in-depth look at pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.

What is Pregnancy Discrimination?

Discrimination against pregnant workers means treating them unfavorably due to their pregnancy, childbirth, or other related conditions. Aside from its impact on work performance, pregnancy discrimination can affect the victim mentally, physically, and emotionally. The stress may result in various complications and take a huge toll on the employee’s well-being.

Common Forms of Pregnancy Discrimination

1. Failure to provide the necessary accommodations

Pregnant workers need modified facilities and benefits to accommodate their condition. If these are not given, it may cause difficulties that can be harmful to their health.

2. Wrongful termination due to one’s condition

Employment termination on the basis of pregnancy is unlawful in most circumstances. Accounts for termination should be based on suitable grounds that are not limited by medical conditions.

3. Refusal to hire due to maternity

Unfortunately, there is a grave misconception that pregnant women cannot fully commit to their role in the workplace. Some hiring managers may inquire about your maternity and base their decision on your pregnancy.  

4. Verbal harassment

Any offhand comment, offensive joke, or bullying can create a hostile work environment. If a colleague frequently makes passing comments about your pregnancy, it can be constituted as workplace harassment.

5. Retaliating against a discrimination claim

Some employers may retaliate against you if you file a pregnancy discrimination claim. This may be done through bad performance reviews, demotions, verbal or physical harassment, and more.

Prevention Tips for Workers and Managers

In accordance with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, employers are not allowed to discriminate against pregnant employees in relation to any aspect of their role. This law encompasses the full scope of your employment, such as pay, benefits, training, responsibilities, hiring, and termination.

However, despite this regulation, the number of discrimination claims is still significant. As such, preventing discriminatory acts in the workplace is the responsibility of both employers and employees. Both parties must follow these practices to establish a healthy workplace and prevent pregnancy discrimination

How Workers Can Prevent Pregnancy Discrimination

1. Be aware of your rights as a pregnant worker

Learning the applicable federal and state laws is the best way to avoid pregnancy discrimination. It is essential to know what employee rights you are entitled to and what actions you can take if they are not met.

2. Take note of company policies

Take the time to study your company’s policies and employment contract to see if there are written rules that address pregnancy discrimination. If there are no inclusions regarding reasonable accommodations like benefits and paid time off, bring these up with your manager.

3. Inform your employer and important colleagues regarding your condition

Not all pregnant workers can be fit or capable enough to continue working throughout their maternity. As such, it is important to notify your employers and colleagues of your situation so they can prepare for the changes accordingly.

4. Communicate your capabilities and needs

Some pregnant workers can physically cope with the demands of their jobs, but you may not necessarily feel the same. All pregnancies are different, so voice your concerns to help your colleagues better understand your situation.

5. Engage in an interactive process

During your pregnancy, there may be times when you will need to approach your manager about special accommodations. This process will help ensure that you can continue to perform while negotiating what modifications can be made to stay healthy.

How Managers Can Address Pregnancy Discrimination

1. Show empathy by providing the necessary provisions

Providing reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers can include safe rooms and paid maternity leaves. This can be one way for employers to show empathy and improve their relationship with the staff.

2. Set expectations with the staff and the worker’s primary colleagues

When a worker announces their pregnancy, inform their immediate colleagues and establish expectations for the foreseeable future. This is to help make the necessary adjustments and prevent any ill will between co-workers.

3. Adopt a zero-tolerance policy against discriminatory behavior

A zero-tolerance approach will help prevent authorities from exercising discriminatory acts toward employees. Establish that all are expected to follow this rule or will otherwise face severe punishment.

4. Maintain updated job descriptions for pregnant employees

Keeping an updated job description can help employees establish the realms of their duties and functions. For pregnant employees, these specifications may change depending on the company policy.

5. Be aware of discrimination laws

Discriminatory acts of any kind are considered unlawful. If a case is filed against your company, you may face serious penalties that can harm your reputation. As such, it is crucial to be aware of these laws and comply with them.

Care and Consideration Against Discrimination

Modern workplaces have become more inclusive now that companies have begun to emphasize the importance of diversity. But despite this, discriminatory treatment is still common, especially toward pregnant workers. Knowing what you can do to prevent these situations and create a healthy workplace environment is essential.

If you are a victim of pregnancy discrimination, getting the help of a legal professional will allow you to manage your situation. Reach out to a reliable pregnancy discrimination lawyer from Shegerian and Associates today!

Manuela Varela

Relations Manager

Manuela Varela has been with Shegerian & Associates since August 2022. She is responsible for outreach and marketing on behalf of the firm and manages relationships between firms and referring attorneys. She is also responsible for developing business opportunities and affiliations. Manuela graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in Economics and Political Science.