Discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace is an insidious
form of gender discrimination. Although protection exists in employment
law for pregnant women, some of the forms of discrimination can be more
difficult to quantify than an obvious firing. If you think your standing
at work has been undermined because of a pregnancy, talk to an employment
lawyer with experience in cases involving
gender discrimination in San Jose, CA. Knowing your rights under California employment law is an important step
in protecting yourself from bias.
Legal Protections for Pregnant Women
Federal laws protect women from discrimination based on pregnancy. The
Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 requires that employers treat pregnancy
in the same way they would any short-term disability, as long as the company
has 15 employees or more. It also defined that pregnant women must be
allowed to work as long as they are able to work. The Family Medical Leave
Act, or FMLA, which was established in 1993, states that all companies
with more than 50 employees must allow pregnant women 12 weeks of unpaid
leave for childbirth, provided that the woman has been a full time employee
for a year or has 1,250 hours of work on record. In recent years, however,
courts have ruled that employers can terminate employees on FMLA leave
if they can prove the position has been eradicated due to downsizing.
Circumventing the Laws
Many employers don’t outwardly violate these protections but instead
do so in ways that are more difficult to prove. On returning to work,
women may find themselves demoted. They may be excluded from important
projects and skipped over for opportunities for which they are qualified.
Although employment law prevents retaliation against employees who claim
discrimination, often women who file complaints are eventually fired.
Their employers simply wait a sufficient amount of time between the complaint
and the termination to link the firing to something else.
Although it can be extremely difficult to prove these allegations, discrimination
lawyers recommend that women keep precise records if they believe pregnancy
is being used against them. Talk to an employment lawyer as soon as possible.
Your lawyer can protect your job and seek damages where relevant.