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Pregnant women: know your rights on the job

Being pregnant can be an extremely exciting, stressful and uncomfortable time in a woman's life. On top of all the joy and anticipation that comes with pregnancy, there are also huge responsibilities to consider. Parents-to-be are typically focused on keeping an unborn baby healthy, saving money and making sure a home is ready for a growing family.

This can be difficult enough to do without the added anxiety of wondering how the pregnancy may affect work. Many women don't even want to disclose the happy news of a pregnancy to employers or potential employers for fear they will be discriminated against. However, there are strict laws in place that protect employers from discriminating against pregnant women.

State and federal laws prohibit employers from treating an employee unfavorably if she is pregnant. Specifically, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act strictly prohibits most employers from:

  • Harassing a woman based on pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions
  • Refusing to hire a woman because she is pregnant
  • Denying a pregnant woman's request for disability leave if such leave would be granted to others who are temporarily disabled
  • Refusing to make reasonable accommodations unless doing so would create an "undue hardship"

However, the unfortunate reality is that it can be very difficult to build a pregnancy discrimination claim against an employer, especially without legal representation. In some cases, a woman may believe that she has been the victim of discrimination but there is a big difference between believing something and proving it in court.

What we hope readers take away from this post is an understanding that they cannot be fired, demoted, transferred or otherwise mistreated because of pregnancy. However, being pregnant doesn't shield a person from being fired, demoted or transferred for reasons unrelated to pregnancy.

Because this can be such a complicated and sensitive topic, it can be crucial for employees and employers with questions about potential pregnancy discrimination claims to discuss the situation with an attorney.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Pregnancy Discrimination," accessed on July 15, 2015

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