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3 ways pregnancy discrimination can happen at work

On Behalf of | Feb 19, 2024 | Employment Law |

Even though working women are no longer considered a novelty, a lot of employers still don’t seem to be on board with making room for their pregnant employees.

While it’s no longer legal to outright dismiss someone from their position simply because they are pregnant, discrimination against pregnant workers is still a pervasive problem in the United States. In fact, research indicates it’s a pervasive problem – even in workplaces that say they support women and high-wage occupations.

What does pregnancy discrimination look like?

Pregnancy discrimination can be overt or subtle. Some of the most common forms of discrimination pregnant workers face can include:

  1. Stereotyping: Employers or colleagues may hold preconceived notions about a pregnant worker’s capabilities, commitment or dedication to their job. Common biased beliefs include the idea that a pregnant employee is automatically going to be less focused, less productive and generally less committed to their career from the moment they get pregnant onward – well into motherhood.
  2. Accommodation denial: Pregnancy does sometimes come with physical and medical needs that require some adjustments, and a pregnant worker may require a few reasonable accommodations – like a modified work schedule, more frequent breaks or a temporary adjustment to their working conditions (like a chair to sit on at their station). Sometimes even the most reasonable requests are denied because the employer refuses to see that as anything other than “special treatment.”
  3. Unequal treatment: Pregnancy discrimination can also look like unwanted and unnecessary treatment that disadvantages the worker. This can include forcing a pregnant employee to take “light duty” when they don’t need it, excluding them from consideration for promotion because they’re about to become a parent or cutting them out of important projects because they may need to take leave.

If you experience pregnancy discrimination in your workplace, make no mistake: It’s illegal. You have a right to expect better. If your attempts to address the issue have gone nowhere, it may be time to explore alternative legal options.