You have a bundle of joy on the way, and you couldn't be more excited. You're preparing for the big day when your baby will arrive, and it's normally a joyful time. But you're noticing you're being treated differently at work ever since you announced your pregnancy. Not only is it adding stress, but pregnancy discrimination in the workplace is against the law.
You become incredibly nervous about your job. Not only does keeping your job impact you, but your baby on the way will need financial security. You worry about your ability to get promoted, and you also have thoughts about losing your job because of the pregnancy. You've gotten the sense that your job may not be secure when you go on maternity leave. You get frustrated that you are being treated unfairly due to nothing else besides your pregnancy. You've been a top performer at work, and you are left confused as to what steps you can take to protect yourself and your job.
Here are three things you need to know about pregnancy discrimination at work:
1. Pregnancy is a medical condition that should be treated as such in the workplace:
Just like it would be outrageous and illegal to fire someone for having a broken leg, the same goes for pregnancy. You cannot be fired or denied promotions because of your medical condition. Because pregnancy requires extra doctor appointments or time away from work, your employer should not discriminate against you for having to attend appointments due to your pregnancy. Similarly, childbirth and going on leave after childbirth should be treated like a medical disability. While you are on leave, your employer under federal law must grant you the rights to continue to accrue seniority, vacation time, pay increases and disability payments like they are granted to other employees who are on leave for a disability. An employer may also not refuse to hire a woman due to pregnancy. Hiring, firing or promoting a pregnant woman cannot be influenced by the prejudices of customers, clients or co-workers, either, by law.
2. You are not required to give extra documentation related to your pregnancy if it is not also asked of anyone who has a short-term disability:
If your employer is constantly asking for medical notes from your doctor related to your ability to work while you are pregnant, it may be against the law if the same medical notes are not asked of all employees with a short-term disability. Your employer may also not forbid you from continuing to work once they know you are pregnant, if you are still physically capable of performing your job duties. You are also not required to announce or give notice about your pregnancy unless it serves a legitimate business purpose. Obviously, many women do let their supervisor know so they can plan for who will cover your work while you are on maternity leave. But you do not need to feel obligated to let everyone know, or fear that they will take the news and use it against you in the workplace. If that is happening, you have rights, and federal law strictly prohibits such discrimination under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
3. Your employer must fairly cover you under health insurance:
If your employer offers health insurance and you are covered under their plan, they have to cover pregnancy related health visits the same way they cover other medical conditions. They also must provide the same pregnancy-related coverage to single employees as they do to married employees. In other words, if you are pregnant but unmarried, the health insurance should be covered at the same level to you as it is to employees who are married.
If you feel you are being discriminated against at work due to your pregnancy, childbirth or maternity leave, you have rights and are protected under the law. An attorney skilled in employment law can help guide you for your specific situation, and answer questions about what is legal and what is illegal. An attorney can also help you seek justice should you be wrongfully terminated due to your pregnancy, or experience other discrimination on the job. This joyful time in your life should not be clouded by negative events happening to you at work. Protect yourself and your baby's future by seeking legal help if you are in this situation.