A recent study released by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission shows that pregnancy discrimination affects almost every industry and every part of the country. Attorneys for the EEOC say that pregnancy discrimination is one of the most overt types of employment discrimination they encounter.
Discriminating against pregnant women in the workplace is illegal. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is a federal law that forbids discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, pay, layoffs, firing, promotions, benefits, and any other term or condition of employment. A pregnant woman may also be entitled to protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act for any impairments resulting from pregnancy. Pregnant women are also entitled to extra rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which enables them to take leave from work that can be used to care for a new baby. Many state laws also provide protections for women – in California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act gives pregnant women additional rights.
New data released from the EEOC shows that although women in all fields and economic levels may encounter pregnancy discrimination, most claims are filed by women in low-wage fields. The largest number of pregnancy discrimination cases in 2013 was filed by women in the health care and social assistance field, followed by retail employees, the hospitality industry, administrative support, and manufacturing. Most positions in these fields have lower pay rates than in other fields.
According to advocates for pregnant women, pregnant low-wage workers who are forced out of the company on leave or who are denied reasonable accommodations can put a family at economic risk. The EEOC gave some examples of recent pregnancy discrimination claims among low-wage workers, including a bus driver who was forced on unpaid leave because her supervisor worried she would get morning sickness, and another worker who was fired for carrying a water bottle that her doctor recommended to prevent pregnancy-related bladder infections. Other workers need bigger uniforms, but may run into obstacles with their employees in obtaining their requests. By law, employers are required to supply workers with reasonable accommodations if they are pregnant, which may include bigger uniforms, stools, water bottles, bathroom breaks and other requests.
Last month, the EEOC released a detailed Enforcement Guidance on pregnant discrimination and related issues, which addresses an employer’s obligations relating to pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions. The Guidance makes it clear that there can be no discrimination at work based on current pregnancy, past pregnancy, intent to become pregnant, or pregnancy-related medical conditions.
It’s unfortunate that many employers will openly discriminate against pregnant women. The number of pregnancy discrimination cases has been on the rise in the past 10 years, in addition to settlements. In 1997, there were $5.6 million in settlements related to pregnancy discrimination cases, while in 2011 the total was $17.2 million.
New evidence is showing that virtually all professions except for the most physically demanding ones are safe for pregnant women. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health said in a recent report that pregnant women should be safe to lift the same amounts of weight as the general population, except for lifting from the floor and overhead. More studies have found that if pregnant workers stand for more than three hours a day on the job there is either no risk or a small risk for preterm or low-weight babies.
At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that women should not be discriminated against at work on the basis of their pregnancy – instead, they should be allowed to perform their jobs with reasonable accommodations. If employer fail to do so, they should be held liable. If you have been discriminated against at work, call Micha Star Liberty, Oakland pregnancy discrimination attorney, at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. Our team will be happy to help you protect your legal rights. Call today to schedule a consultation.