Fortunately, pregnancy discrimination is becoming less common in today’s society. Pregnant women have legal protections against harassment and discrimination at work. Federal laws, including the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as well as a California law called the Fair Employment and Housing Act, afford women legal rights in connection with pregnancy.
By law, an employer cannot harass a female employee due to her pregnancy, or because she got pregnant. In general, in order to be actionable the unlawful conduct must be considered severe and pervasive. This does not include a one-time comment or a casual joke. By law, it is also unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a female employee on the basis of pregnancy.
In other words, an employer cannot legally refuse to hire, demote (or change employment terms), fail to accommodate, or fire a woman because she is, or is planning on becoming, pregnant. Some examples of pregnancy harassment could include: refusing to hire a woman who is pregnant, refusing to allow reasonable amounts of time off work for doctor’s appointments, refusing to hire women of a certain age for fear they may become pregnant, and passing a woman over for a promotion because she is pregnant or may become pregnant.
State and federal laws also require maternity leave be offered to women. If you are eligible under law (generally by working a certain length of time for employers of a certain size), employers must allow women to have 12 weeks of unpaid leave following the birth or adoption of a child, or the placement of a foster child into your home. A pregnant woman can legally choose to replace those 12 unpaid weeks with paid leave that she is owed, such as vacation time or sick time. During maternity leave, employers are also required to continue any employment benefits, like health insurance, although employees must pay the premiums during maternity leave. Once a woman returns from maternity leave, an employer must restore her to her original job or to an equivalent job.
In California, a woman who has experienced pregnancy discrimination has only one year to pursue legal action, such as a lawsuit, or may be forever prevented from doing so. Therefore, if you believe you were discriminated against because of pregnancy, it is very important to seek legal representation immediately in order to protect your rights. You could be entitled to compensation for lost wages, or to have your position restored, or another legal option.
At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes employers should not discriminate against women in the workplace on the basis of pregnancy. If pregnant women are discriminated against, they should pursue all of the legal options available. If you believe you have been the victim of pregnancy discrimination or harassment, call Micha Star Liberty at Liberty Law at 415-896-1000 or 510-645-1000. She works hard to protect victims’ rights, which may include to help you get your job back or obtain compensation for expenses and lost wages. She works with clients in the Oakland area, including San Francisco, Fairfield, Tracy, Hayward, Berkeley, and the surrounding areas. Call today to learn more.