coping with pregnancy discrimination

Pregnancy Discrimination is Illegal

Employment discrimination because of pregnancy is illegal under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act and other state and federal laws. If a woman is unable to perform her job because of a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, the employer must treat the woman in the same way it treats other temporarily disabled employees and provide accommodations. The employer may be required to provide unpaid leave, alternative assignments, light duty, or make other arrangements.


The Role of The Doctors’ Notes

However, a recent commentary in an obstetrics journal warned that doctors’ notes to employers for pregnant women must be worded very carefully. Doctors often write employment notes for pregnant patients which request a change in work duties because of a health concern. In about 70 percent of pregnancy-related cases investigated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over the last 10 years, the female employee was fired.

Doctors’ notes often play a very important role in employment conflicts. If the doctor’s note is too vague, employers may decide that the employee cannot perform her job and must be put on unpaid leave right away, which can harm her financially and cause her to lose all of her leave before the baby is even born. Other notes can be given too early in the pregnancy, and may suggest that a pregnant employee will need accommodation before she does. In other cases, the doctor’s note may seek accommodations that are impossible to grant.

How To Get The Right Doctors Note

Instead of writing a vague or generic note, doctors should ask a patient what their essential job duties are, and then specify in the note what the patient can no longer do, and what the patient can still do. In many cases, a patient who is healthy but extremely tired, which is common during pregnancy, will ask for a doctor’s note. The doctor may comply, and neither the doctor nor the patient may realize what the consequences of that note will be at work. Studies have found that about two-thirds of doctors will write notes outlining their patients’ restrictions exactly as requested by the patient.

In some egregious situations, an employer will even ask employees to get a doctor’s note in order to be able to work while pregnant. What the employer is actually doing is looking for restrictions in the employee’s abilities in order to have an excuse to fire her or to place her on unpaid leave.


Legal Rights For Women

Pregnancy can be difficult enough for many women without the added stress of work problems. Women have legal rights both during and after their pregnancy, including the right to 12 weeks of unpaid or paid leave (in most situations), the right to not be harassed or discriminated against because of the pregnancy, and the right to express milk in the workplace.


If You’ve Experienced Pregnancy Discrimination, Contact Micha Liberty

If you believe that you have been discriminated against at work because of your pregnancy, call Micha Star Liberty, Oakland pregnancy discrimination attorney, at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that employers should follow the law concerning pregnant employees, and if they fail to do so they should be held legally accountable. If you have been discriminated against, call Liberty Law today to schedule your free consultation. Liberty Law works with clients throughout the Oakland-San Francisco area, including Hayward, Berkeley, Tracy, San Jose, Sacramento, Fairfield, and the surrounding areas.

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