Pregnancy is a beautiful thing, and it’s a welcome event for many people – but pregnancy (or the possibility of pregnancy) can also sometimes lead to both intentional and unintentional discrimination in the workplace.
Pregnancy discrimination has been expressly forbidden since the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, but it still keeps happening. These are three common ways that pregnancy discrimination can manifest.
Not getting hired or promoted because of the potential for pregnancy
Employers sometimes assume that any woman of “childbearing age” who doesn’t already have children is going to eventually want children and get pregnant – and they may factor that into their decisions when it comes time to hire, train or promote. Some employers aren’t even subtle about their feelings, and will openly deride an employee’s value, saying things like “they’re just going to get pregnant and leave,” when explaining why they won’t put resources into young, female workers.
Not being given reasonable accommodations when pregnant
Growing a whole new human being isn’t easy, and women can struggle with nausea, swollen ankles, increased fatigue and the need for extra bathroom breaks. Most employers can and will accommodate those needs very easily. However, some employers act like the fact that a worker needs a chair or a few extra bathroom trips a day is a major detriment to their business and actively resist making any concessions.
Not being given equal opportunities or work due to their condition
On the flip side, some employers are very solicitous toward their pregnant workers – but that can also be discriminatory if it has the effect of depriving the worker of opportunities or professional experiences against their will. For example, assigning a pregnant researcher who is perfectly capable of doing fieldwork to a desk because of her condition when she neither wants nor needs to be restricted is also discrimination.
If you’ve been the victim of pregnancy discrimination, it’s worthwhile to explore your legal options. Fighting back is likely the only way to achieve justice and inspire change.