Pregnancy Discrimination - Steps You Can Take to Protect Yourself
Pregnancy Discrimination happens every day, learn your rights to be able to protect your employment.
WHAT IS PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION?According to the US. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) Pregnancy discrimination involves treating a woman unfavorably because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (“PDA”), and the Florida Civil Rights Act (In Florida) prohibit employers from discriminating against women on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. The PDA applies to employers with 15 or more employees.
According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, discrimination based on pregnancy is a form of sex discrimination. The protection against pregnancy discrimination applies to employees but also all applicants for employment. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Florida Civil Rights Act protect an employee from pregnancy discrimination, even if the employee is in a probatory period. In addition, both laws further mandate that employers treat women who are pregnant, are going through childbirth, or are affected by a related medical condition the same as non-pregnant employees, whether male or female, who are similar in their ability or inability to work.
SHOULD YOU DISCLOSE YOUR PREGNANCY TO YOUR EMPLOYER?There is no legal requirement that you have to disclose your pregnancy at a job interview or even during your employment. The moment at which you inform your employer is completely up to you. Nevertheless, if you anticipate requesting any kind of accommodations to be able to attend medical visits or pregnancy-related sickness, or to arrange maternity leave, you may want to disclose your pregnancy to your employer at that time.
Prior to discussing with your employer your pregnancy and any possible accommodations, it is important you find out what you may be entitled to during your pregnancy. Consult with the human resources department or refer to your employee handbook or employment agreement to determine your pregnancy/maternity options. Some of the possible benefits you may be entitled to are: Vacation days, Personal days, Holiday time, Paid Sick Leave, Short Term Disability, Paid Pregnancy/Maternity Leave, Unpaid family leave time (FMLA) amongst a few.
Be sure to research your specific state laws and your employee handbook, so that you are aware of what you are entitled to.
PREGNANCY AS A DISABILITYEmployers must treat pregnant employees who are limited in their ability to work because of their pregnancy or pregnancy-related medical conditions the same as non-pregnant employees who are similarly limited in their ability to work. This means that an employer must treat an employee who is temporarily unable to do the job because of pregnancy or pregnancy-related medical conditions in the same manner as the employer treats other non-pregnant employees who are temporarily unable to do their job because of sickness, injury, or disability. This is often translated by considering pregnancy or pregnancy-related medical conditions as a form of disability. Protections applied to a pregnant employee or an employee with pregnancy-related medical conditions are often provided with the same remedies as employees under short term disabilities. Under the PDA, an employer that allows temporarily disabled employees to take disability leave or leave without pay must allow an employee who is temporarily disabled due to pregnancy to do the same.
Additionally, impairments resulting from pregnancy (for example, gestational diabetes or preeclampsia, a condition characterized by pregnancy-induced hypertension and protein in the urine) may be disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION & HARASSMENTIt is unlawful to harass a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. Harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted). The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.
TERMINATED OR DISCRIMINATED AGAINST?The most familiar form of pregnancy discrimination is discrimination against an employee based on her current pregnancy. This type of discrimination occurs when an employer refuses to hire, fires, or takes any disciplinary action against a woman because she is pregnant, without regard to her ability to perform the duties of the job. An employee who has been discriminated against by her employer due to her pregnancy may file a complaint with the EEOC. Consistent with the PDA, an employee may not be fired for filing a complaint against their employer if they believe that their employer has discriminated against them. In most cases, you must file a complaint within 180 days of the discrimination action to preserve your legal rights. If you are not sure whether you want to seek legal counsel, below are some tips on how to protect yourself, if you believe that you are being discriminated against due to your pregnancy.
TIPS ON HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF AGAINST PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION1. MAINTAIN A LOG with the location, time, and date of all discriminatory incidents. Include direct quotes and details, including parties present. Keep a copy of these notes in case you need them.
2. SPEAK with a union representative or your company’s HR department.
3. STORE COPIES OF YOUR JOB EVALUATIONS and all letters or memos documenting a good job you are doing.
4. SEEK SUPPORT and find comfort from friends and family so the situation may be less stressful.
5. SPEAK TO A QUALIFIED LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT ATTORNEY who may be able to explain your rights and advocate for you.
WHEN TO CONTACT AN ATTORNEY?We would recommend that you discuss your employment situation with an attorney if you believe that you are being discriminated against in your employment, due to your pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition. A qualified labor and employment lawyer can recommend an appropriate legal strategy that ensures your legal rights are protected and your legal claims are successfully advanced.