Know Your Rights: Pregnancy Discrimination

Pregnancy Discrimination

It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against any woman because of childbirth, pregnancy, or pregnancy-related medical conditions. According to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), employers with 15 or more employees are legally obligated to treat pregnant employees the same way they would treat employees with disabilities.

This amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has required employers to extend the reasonable accommodations given to disabled employees to pregnant employees. The employer must offer light duty work, alternative assignments, modified tasks, disability leave, or unpaid leave to pregnant employees. Furthermore, the pregnant employee’s rights are protected in regards to pay, promotions, job assignments, layoffs, fringe benefits, and the amount of time the employer must hold open a job for an employees absence.

Currently, WalMart is a defendant in a few class action suits in several states in cases involving discrimination against pregnant women. In Illinois, a pregnant woman was forced into unpaid leave after being reprimanded for asking her co-workers to climb ladders and lift heavy items for her. When she returned from leave she was paid two dollars less than she had been previously. In a similar case, a pregnant woman from Florida was fired from Walmart for injuring herself by carrying a 50-pound tray after her manager had told her pregnancy was “no excuse” for not doing the heavy lifting.

Approximately seventy-five percent of the female working force will become pregnant at some point in their lives. These laws allow women to start a family while continuing to support that family. The ability to maintain employment throughout pregnancy is extremely important. Unfortunately, pregnancy discrimination most often affects low-income earners who will be harmed the most by this unlawful treatment.

How To Protect Yourself:

1. 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.

2. SPEAK UP with a union representative or your company's HR department.

3. STORE COPIES OF YOUR JOB EVALUATIONS and all letters or memos documenting the 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.