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3 ways businesses may discriminate against pregnant women

On Behalf of | Feb 22, 2024 | Workplace Discrimination |

Employment laws prohibit businesses from considering certain personal characteristics when making decisions about who works for a company and what jobs they perform. There are laws protecting people from racial discrimination and sex discrimination at work. There are also state and federal laws protecting pregnant women from discrimination in the workplace.

Despite clear standards intended to prevent discrimination against expectant new mothers, pregnancy discrimination does still sometimes occur. Workers can find themselves struggling at their jobs, and businesses could end up facing expensive lawsuits over the misconduct of a few employees. The following are some of the more common ways that pregnancy discrimination can manifest in the workplace.

Via denied accommodations

Pregnancy is first and foremost a medical condition that can alter a woman’s functional capabilities at work. Employers typically need to work with pregnant women to keep them on the job. Remote work, changes to job responsibilities and assistive technology to limit lifting requirements are all ways to accommodate a pregnant woman’s medical limitations. If a woman requests accommodations and has medical documentation affirming their necessity, the refusal to provide necessary accommodations might constitute discrimination.

Through unwarranted terminations

Frequently, pregnancy discrimination culminates in a woman losing her job. A manager unhappy with having a pregnant team member might start writing her up repeatedly until they have a reason to terminate her position with the company. Other times, the company might take punitive action after a woman tries to return to work following her maternity leave. Firing a woman or laying her off because of her pregnancy is a form of discrimination that could potentially trigger litigation against the business.

By demoting a pregnant worker

Sometimes, companies respond to notice about a worker’s pregnancy by moving her into a less visible role that comes with lower pay. Other times, a demotion might occur after a woman returns from her maternity leave. Instead of letting her resume the same job, the company moves her into a lower position with less pay.

It is incumbent upon businesses to understand what constitutes pregnancy discrimination to avoid the mistreatment of vulnerable workers, and it is also important for pregnant workers to be able to recognize pregnancy discrimination if it happens to them. As such, understanding common manifestations of pregnancy discrimination can benefit employers and workers alike.