Pregnancy Discrimination and Reasonable Accommodations at Work – What Are Your Rights?

As a working woman, you’re entitled to a workplace free from discrimination based on your gender. That basically comes down to three things:

  • Equal Pay. It’s illegal to pay you less than men doing comparable work.
  • Sexual Harassment and Discrimination. It’s illegal to subject women to unwelcome sexual attention, or to create a work environment that is hostile to women.  It’s also illegal to discriminate against women on the basis of their gender.
  • Pregnancy.  If you become pregnant, you have rights.  Employers cannot fire you or otherwise discriminate against you in any manner due to your pregnancy.  Increasingly, it is becoming illegal for employers to withhold reasonable accommodations due to pregnancy.

Under US law, during the course of your pregnancy, and after your baby is born, you are entitled to the same flexibility, known as reasonable accommodations, as your employer provides to other groups of employees. So, for example, if your company allows for light duty for employees who are injured on the job, they must provide light duty work for you, when you’re pregnant and request it.

Similarly, if your employer allows employees time off to recover from the flu or a car accident, they can’t deny you maternity leave so that you may sufficiently recover after your baby is born.  If they were to deny you reasonable leave to recover while they allow leave to others who are injured, such denial to you would be a form of sex and pregnancy discrimination.

State Pregnant Workers Fairness Acts

Even better than the current federal law, under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Acts of NY, CT, NJ, and 10 other states, you’re entitled to flexibility during your pregnancy just because you’re pregnant, so if you need a modification in hours, or more restroom breaks, time off for doctors’ visits and forms of self-care, your employer must provide these reasonable accommodations for you whether they accommodate other groups of workers or not.

What Should You Do if You Become Pregnant?

So, the upshot is, when your pregnant, let your employer know about it, and if you have pregnancy-related medical challenges, including simple morning sickness, and you need your company to show kindness and flexibility, be sure to ask for it, preferably in writing.

What if I’m Not Covered by the Family Medical Leave Act – Am I Entitled to Maternity Leave?

Finally, regardless of whether you’re covered by the Family Medical Leave Act or not, you’re entitled to maternity leave when your baby is born.

If you have questions about your particular pregnancy related workplace problem, call us at our NYC or Mid-Hudson valley offices and we’ll brainstorm together how we can best support and help you.  The consultation is free, but the advice is invaluable.