It’s hard to know what to expect when you’re expecting – but one thing you shouldn’t have to worry about is pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. Pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, which involves unfavorable treatment in any aspect of employment, is illegal under both federal and state laws. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop it from happening.
Sometimes, in fact, pregnancy discrimination flies under an employee’s radar, and they don’t recognize what’s going on until they’re already at a disadvantage. If you’re pregnant, here are two forms of pregnancy discrimination you should know about.
In the past, it wasn’t uncommon for employers to place pregnant employees on involuntary leave (or outright fire them) as soon as their pregnancy began “to show.” That mentality, which basically equates pregnancy with incapacity, hasn’t totally died away.
Your employer may or may not present unwanted restrictions on your work activity as something that’s being done for your benefit. For example, you may be told that your work hours are being reduced to avoid straining you during your pregnancy, or that your employer has decided to restrict your work assignments so that you aren’t doing anything that they consider “too dangerous” for your condition.
Other employers are less concerned about appearing benevolent. They may insist that you provide them with medical clearances at various stages of your pregnancy in order to prove that you’re fit to work – even though they don’t require medical clearances from other, non-pregnant employees.
Failures to accommodate
The flip side of the coin is a failure to accommodate pregnancy-related health issues and restrictions that have been placed on you by your physician. Pregnancy is treated like any other temporary medical condition, in that you have a right to reasonable accommodations. For example, if you can do your job sitting down, asking to use a stool when you normally stand to work would probably be utterly reasonable. Extra bathroom breaks, which are a common request by expectant employees, are often a hot-button issue with some employers.
If you believe (or know) that you have been the victim of pregnancy-related discrimination at work, don’t guess about your next move. Find out more about both your rights and your legal options in order to place yourself in the best position to make informed choices.