There are federal and state laws that protect those who are pregnant while at work. An employer generally cannot fire a worker simply because they announce their pregnancy. In fact, in many cases, the employer may need to allow for reasonable accommodations to help the pregnant worker continue within the position during the pregnancy.
Although this may seem like common sense, acts of discrimination against pregnant people still happen.
How does pregnancy discrimination happen?
There is currently a case making its way through the courts in New York that involves a law firm that tried to fire one of its top attorneys shortly after she announced her pregnancy. The attorney argues that the only reason for her termination was her pregnancy; the law firm counters that she was just the byproduct of a need to downsize. She has filed a lawsuit, and the case is under review.
The benefit of winning this type of case can vary but often includes a return to the position, payment of lost compensation, and other financial awards. These cases also serve another important goal: they help ensure pregnant people are treated with dignity and respect. By holding nefarious employers accountable for this type of wrongdoing, the victim is actually working to help make the community a better place for similarly situated individuals.
What are the laws that protect pregnant people from discrimination?
There are many. Some of the more notable include:
- Title VII and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. This law prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy and provides pregnant workers with temporary job modifications if their employer provides similar modifications to others.
- Americans with Disabilities Act. This extends protections to disabilities related to pregnancy. Examples could include diabetes that develops during pregnancy.
It is also illegal for an employer or coworker to harass another individual because they are pregnant.
What else should I know?
The law is constantly evolving. Recently, President Joseph Biden signed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) into law. This law requires “reasonable accommodations” for pregnant workers unless the employer can establish that such accommodations would impose an “undue hardship.” This is a step further from the Pregnancy Discrimination Act noted above because the pregnant worker is allowed these accommodations even if the employer does not provide them to other workers.
Pregnant workers have rights, and these rights are expanding. Those who believe they are the victim of discrimination based on their pregnancy can review their options with an attorney who practices this type of employment law.