(Last Updated On: April 19, 2023)
Pregnancy is a time of excitement and anticipation, but unfortunately, it can also be a catalyst for discrimination in the workplace. Pregnancy discrimination is when an employer treats a person unfavorably because they are pregnant, have given birth, or have a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. As someone who is pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, it’s important to know the signs of pregnancy discrimination and what legal steps to take to protect your rights.
Recognize the Signs of Pregnancy Discrimination
Though pregnancy discrimination is illegal, it still happens. Here are some signs that you are a victim of this type of discrimination:
1. Being passed over for promotions or job opportunities. For example, you’re qualified for a promotion or a new job opportunity, but the position is given to a less qualified candidate simply because you’re pregnant.
2. Being denied reasonable accommodations. Your employer doesn’t allow accommodation such as sitting down or taking more frequent breaks even though they know you’re expecting.
3. Being harassed or treated unfairly because of pregnancy. Perhaps you’re being denied training or job assignments, you’re experiencing isolation from co-workers, or you’re receiving negative performance evaluations that don’t accurately reflect the quality of your work.
4. Being fired or demoted because of pregnancy. These two actions are explicit signs of discrimination in the workplace.
Know Your Legal Protections as a Pregnant Worker
If you’re experiencing any of these scenarios at work, it’s essential that you familiarize yourself with the legal protection you have as a pregnant worker under the federal law. One of the primary pieces of legislation you should reference is the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. It amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, making it illegal for employers to discriminate against people based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. This means that employers cannot treat pregnant employees differently than they would other employees when it comes to hiring, firing, promotions, or any other terms and conditions of employment. Qualified employees of qualified employers may also be entitled to up to twelve weeks of job protected leave after the birth or adoption of a child under the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA has a provision for pregnant employees that, if they meet certain eligibility requirements, allows them to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period for the birth or adoption of a child.
In addition to these federal protections, Massachusetts has additional laws protecting pregnant workers. We have the Anti-Discrimination Law, the Equal Pay Act, the Paid Family and Medical Leave law (PFML), the Parental Leave Act, and Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.
The Anti-Discrimination Law prohibits discrimination in employment based on sex, a trait which is inherently tied to pregnancy. The Equal Pay Act mandates that MA employers provide workers with fair pay regardless of gender. The Paid Family and Medical Leave law provides paid leave for qualified employees welcoming a child into their home. Note that leave under the FMLA and PFML must be taken concurrently. The Parental Leave Act requires MA employers to provide up to 8 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child. Lastly, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act provides pregnant employees with accommodations while on the job, such as the possibility of modifying their work schedule, complete light duty assignments, express breast milk, and take frequent bathroom breaks.
How to Respond to Pregnancy Discrimination
If a pregnant worker suspects they are experiencing discrimination, there are several steps they can take to protect themself:
1. Keep records of any incidents or conversations related to the discrimination. This can help provide evidence if you decide to file a complaint.
2. Report the discrimination to a supervisor or HR representative. If the employer is aware of the discrimination, they can proceed to address it.
3. File a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. These agencies investigate discrimination claims, with or without the help of a lawyer.
4. Consult with an employment law attorney. The Rodman Employment Law team is here to provide legal advice and guide you through the process.
Legal Representation for Your Pregnancy Discrimination Case
By knowing the signs of pregnancy discrimination and taking action to protect their legal rights, pregnant workers can help ensure that they are treated fairly and with respect in the workplace. If you need legal support fighting pregnancy discrimination at your MA workplace, don’t hesitate to contact us at 617-820-5250. It’s our honor to advocate for your rights as you embrace this special time of expanding your family.