By Jack Tuckner, Esq.
There are at least five principle ways that you can be discriminated against at work based on your pregnancy. The first way is just direct discrimination based on your notification of pregnancy, or when your employer notices that you’re pregnant and treats you differently, demotes you, fires you, makes discriminatory statements about your pregnancy, about the coming maternity leave that you’ll be taking, about their perception of your ability to work in the same way that you worked prior to your pregnancy – all of that is direct sex and pregnancy discrimination. If you’re experiencing hostility on the basis of your pregnancy when your employer learns about it, or they fail to hire you because of your pregnancy, that’s direct pregnancy discrimination.
The second way that your employer can discriminate against you based on your pregnancy is a failure to accommodate, to reasonably accommodate your pregnancy-related challenges or needs. So, flexibility for pregnancy-related limitations, flexibility for the additional times and frequency that you’ll need to take breaks and use the lavatory, or visit your OB-GYN for tests, or to have morning sickness – they need to be flexible unless it’s an “undue hardship,” a provable undue hardship on the business, the employer must be flexible and accommodate your pregnancy.
The third way that your employer can discriminate against you is to not provide maternity leave, when your baby is born. Employers come up with all kinds of excuses saying they’re too small, or you haven’t worked there long enough – none of that is legitimate. If you are not accorded a reasonable period of time to recover from childbirth, the standards are typically, minimally, six weeks for a vaginal delivery, and eight weeks for Caesarean section, minimally, it is sex, pregnancy, and disability discrimination, because you cannot work for a certain period of time, postpartum.
The fourth way your employer can discriminate against you is to not restore you to the same position that you had prior to your maternity leave, or to a comparable position, and/or to treat you worse, or badly, because they’re resentful that you’ve just been out for 8 to 12 weeks, and now when you come back you’re being punished or treated differently as a result of taking that protected leave – that’s illegal pregnancy discrimination.
And the fifth way that you can be discriminated against postpartum, is when you come back from maternity leave and your employer doesn’t have a safe, clean private space for you to express milk, to pump milk for your baby, when you’re lactating. That is also pregnancy discrimination.
If you’re experiencing any of these kinds of sexist, discriminatory, pregnancy-based challenges at work, feel free to give me a call – my name is Jack Tuckner. Or, call this office and speak with Deborah O’Rell. Or, shoot me an email and we will be happy to consult with you in total confidence, free of charge, to see how we may be able to assist and empower you during this challenging time at work.