When you think of “pregnancy discrimination,” you may think of those days, long ago, when companies actually forbid female employees from getting pregnant. Anyone who announced they were expecting (or started to show) was summarily dismissed from their position.
Well, that’s not legal anymore but that doesn’t mean that the atmosphere in some companies has changed all that much. Pregnancy discrimination just takes on new forms. Here are some of the ways it manifests:
- Unwelcome comments about a pregnant woman’s body, like statements about her increasing chest size, weight gain or belly
- Crude, sexual comments about how the baby was conceived or how childbirth affects a woman’s body
- Statements that play to stereotypes about working mothers, like “I bet you quit once that baby’s actually here,” or “There’s no way you’ll have time to handle a major account once you have a newborn”
- Sudden negative performance reviews that focus on things like the number of bathroom breaks a pregnant woman is taking or how often she sits down
- A refusal to make any sort of ordinary accommodations for the pregnancy, recovery or period of nursing without putting the employee through unnecessary “hoops,” like getting a doctor’s note to be allowed to sit down when her feet swell
- Comments from employers (or co-workers, if the employer tolerates it) about how the pregnancy is making the woman “slow” and less productive, and naturally, less valuable to the company
- A refusal to allow a woman to do her job because she is pregnant even though her job poses no substantial risk to her health or the baby’s health
Frankly, given that women make up half the workforce in the nation, you’d expect employers to be better about making accommodations and working with the pregnant women and mothers in their employ, but it doesn’t always happen. If you find yourself facing pregnancy discrimination, it may be time to fight back through legal means.