For couples looking to start a family, the announcement of a pregnancy is usually an occasion for celebration. Unfortunately, despite protections by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, new mothers often face workplace discrimination that could put family finances in desperate straits.
All too often, employers continue to ignore their legal obligations toward expectant mothers. In addition to the possibility of an unwarranted termination, pregnant women frequently face issues with unfair hiring practices, pay discrepancies or even barriers toward training and promotion.
- Temporary medical disability during pregnancy
The law grants pregnant women protections similar to those that apply to workers with other types of temporary disability. An employer may need to provide appropriate accommodations if a new mother has a medical reason to take time off from work or temporarily perform lighter, alternative duties. Additionally, pregnancy-related conditions, such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes, may fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Maternity leave after the birth
Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, employers that allow temporarily disabled workers to take leave with or without pay must allow pregnant women to do so as well. Furthermore, under the Family and Medical Leave Act, if a pregnant employee has worked in the same place for at least 12 months prior to taking maternity leave, she may be eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid or paid leave to care for a new child.
- Pregnancy discrimination and harassment
At any time during or after pregnancy, the law protects women against harassment or discrimination due to real or perceived conditions related to childbirth. Harassing behavior becomes illegal when its frequency or severity results in a hostile work environment or adverse employment outcomes, such as termination or demotion. In these cases, it is important to note that the harassing party may be a direct or indirect supervisor, a colleague or even a company client or customer.