More than 70% of women in the workforce have children, and women have made up an increasing amount of the workforce in recent years. (In 2019, women made up half of the workforce for only the second time ever, though this number decreased in 2020 due to COVID-19 and increased family care obligations, which are discussed further here.)
Unfortunately, according to EEOC data, pregnancy discrimination has become increasingly common as women become increasingly essential to the workforce and try to climb the corporate ladder. We are here to shed some light on pregnancy discrimination to help bring awareness to a problem that is sometimes overlooked.
How Pregnant Women are Discriminated Against
Pregnant workers are discriminated against in a variety of ways that are taken for granted by most people. Both employers and workers are not fully informed about pregnant workers’ rights. Fortunately, pregnant workers have robust rights in California.
Hiring discrimination is very common. Even though it is illegal to fire or refuse to hire someone based on whether they plan to become pregnant, it still happens. Employers cannot ask you if you intend to become pregnant or have kids, but they sometimes do. Also, employers often decline to hire employees who are visibly pregnant or share the news of their pregnancy in an interview.
Change in Job Duties
A change in job duties may not always be discriminatory, but for pregnant workers, it can be a sign of prejudice. It is not uncommon for employers to demote employees when they become pregnant, assuming that their “focus is no longer on their job duties” or that they are “distracted.”
Employers also sometimes change pregnant workers’ job duties, assuming you can no longer perform your regular tasks—even if you can. On the flip side, employers sometimes try to pressure pregnant workers into quitting by giving them more difficult or strenuous tasks.
Failure to Accommodate Light Duty or Other Work Restrictions
Employers often fail to accommodate pregnant workers’ medical restrictions or allow them to take time off for medical appointments. These work restrictions can include things like being on light duty, taking additional breaks, sitting down, being provided different equipment, being stationed away from harmful chemicals, etc. Whatever your medical restrictions may be, your employer is required to try to accommodate them.
Discrimination can also occur right up until, and even after, the child is born. The refusal of medical leave in order to make medical appointments and proper maternity leave after the baby is born is illegal for employers to perform. Some employers have even gone so far as to dock the pay of female workers that have recently given birth.
Interference with Leave Rights
When you disclose that you’re pregnant, your employer is required to give you notice of your rights under the Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDLL) and other leave laws (depending on your employer’s size). Employers often don’t do this, and workers are left to negotiate tricky and overlapping laws on their own. This is not allowed.
Sometimes, employers outright refuse to give you the leave you’re entitled to, or they retaliate against you for taking leave by cutting your hours, demoting you, or terminating you. Your employer also cannot require you to work while you’re on leave.
Most dramatically, employers sometimes fire pregnant workers because they don’t want to give them leave or because they believe they are no longer committed to working. You cannot be terminated because of your pregnancy or because you took leave, because of your work restrictions, or because you requested other accommodations. Read more about proving that you were terminated because of your pregnancy here.
Contact Our Los Angeles Workplace Discrimination Team Today
We are committed to advocating for those that have wronged in the workplace. With so much already on their shoulders, pregnant women should never have to deal with hardship in a place that should remain safe and supportive. We are ready to represent those who need our help with the compassionate and personalized attention they deserve.
If you have experienced discrimination due to your pregnancy, do not hesitate to contact us today through our website or give us a call at (213) 214-3757 to see how we can help!