With the economy strong and unemployment rates low, more and more employers are offering generous maternity leave benefits and work-life balance perks to keep women happy at their jobs after having a child. However, even in 2019, women are not immune from pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.
Pregnancy discrimination in the 21st century
Earlier this year, The New York Times published an in-depth investigative report that detailed that whether a woman worked at Walmart or at a Fortune 500 company, they often are sidelined during pregnancy and passed over for promotions or raises. In fact, the report also noted that with each child a woman has, her earnings drop drops by 4%.
Also, the reported noted that women in physically demanding jobs are impacted more noticeably by workplace pregnancy discrimination, risking losing their jobs for asking to carry water bottles, to take rest breaks or to take on light duty.
What qualifies as pregnancy discrimination?
First, a woman cannot lose her job because she is pregnant. Nor can she receive a demotion, lose her health care benefits or have her job duties changed or eliminated because of her pregnancy.
Employers also cannot discriminate against pregnant women during the hiring process, including the application, interview and candidate selection process.
Just as with employees with a disability, employers need to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees. So, pregnant women legally can ask for less rigorous job duties, flexible scheduling and break times to express breast milk when they return to work.
If you are concerned about how your workplace will respond to your pregnancy, pay attention to how it treats other employees with disabilities. If your employer makes accommodations for an employee with an injured back or knee, your employer needs to make accommodations for you if you are pregnant.
If you feel you have been the target of pregnancy discrimination at work, contact an experienced attorney. Pregnant women should not have to worry about job loss or job insecurity when facing this big life change.