Understanding the discrimination faced by pregnant women

Women may face a variety of hardships at work, such as harassment, termination and unfair restrictions, solely because they became or could become pregnant.

California women are at risk for being discriminated against due to pregnancy no matter what industry they work in. The National Partnership for Women and Families states that there have been complaints filed by women in the industries of health care and social assistance, accommodation and food services, manufacturing, educational services, retail trade, and management of companies and enterprises to name a few. Over the course of five years, there have been approximately 31,000 charges of discrimination filed by pregnant women across the country. Like other forms of inequity, pregnant women may face a variety of challenges.

Not given reasonable workplace accommodations

Some pregnant women need their jobs to be modified slightly in order to continue work. For example, a woman who usually uses the restroom solely during her scheduled breaks may have to start visiting the bathroom more frequently. If these increased visits are not allowed for her, but are allowed for a man with a medical condition that causes him to have to urinate more frequently, it could be considered discrimination. Over the course of a single year, over 650 women filed a complaint saying they were not given reasonable accommodations at work.

Discharged for becoming pregnant

Some women may even be fired because they recently became pregnant. In fact, 30.6 percent of discrimination charges filed were due to alleged unfair terminations. Women should not have to fear losing their job solely because of pregnancy, yet for some it is a reality.

Not provided ample time off

Discrimination can also take the shape of not being allowed time off. Many pregnant women have to make frequent trips to the doctor to ensure they have a healthy baby. If an employer bars a woman's ability to seek proper medical attention, it could be considered unfairness. As a rule of thumb, employers should treat pregnant women the same as they would any employee who has a temporary disability. In other words, if the employer allows someone with a broken leg to take medical leave, he or she should allow a bed-ridden pregnant woman to do the same.

Made to feel uncomfortable in the workplace

Some women may be harassed at work because of their pregnancy. Infrequent, small jokes are usually not considered harassment. Instead, this designation is left for frequent and severe jokes and pestering that cause the employee to be uncomfortable at work. Some harassment could even result in a demotion or an unfair transfer.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is supposed to protect pregnant women from being treated unfairly, however, some California workers may still struggle with bigoted situations perpetuated by employers, coworkers or customers. When any type of discrimination happens, it may be beneficial to work with a knowledgeable attorney.