Pregnancy discrimination in the workplace is a persistent problem. Often, pregnancy discrimination permanently alters a woman’s career trajectory.
Mothers from diverse backgrounds pay a significant cost for starting families. When young women without children enter the workforce, they often begin at or near equal pay compared to their male counterparts. However, research consistently highlights the penalties women face for becoming mothers. There’s a prevailing assumption among supervisors that mothers lack commitment and reliability, while fathers are seen as stable providers. According to a 2018 report by the American Sociological Review, women’s earnings drop by approximately 4% per child, whereas men experience wage increases upon becoming fathers.
At King & Siegel LLP, our dedicated Oakland pregnancy discrimination lawyers stand ready to advocate for women whose rights have been violated. We are among the leading litigators enforcing state and federal pregnancy discrimination laws. These laws prohibit discrimination hiring, firing, and the terms and conditions of employment. Victims can pursue compensation and other legal remedies when an employer violates one of these laws.
What Is Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace?
Pregnancy discrimination occurs when pregnant employees are treated unfavorably due to their pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. These conditions can include medical conditions that occur following childbirth, like postpartum depression or mastitis.
Examples of pregnancy discrimination include blatant actions like wrongful termination or denial of maternity leave to more insidious behaviors such as being sidelined from crucial projects or receiving biased performance evaluations.The latter types of discrimination are often referred to as being “mommy tracked.”
For many women, these discriminatory practices are not just hypothetical scenarios. The Oakland pregnancy discrimination attorneys at King & Siegel LLP have represented clients who were subjected to unfair treatment, overlooked for promotions, and wrongfully terminated. These discriminatory actions violate the law and inflict significant emotional and financial distress on an employee at a vulnerable time.
Here are some examples of pregnancy-related discrimination:
- Firing a pregnant person under the guise of “performance issues” shortly before the employee’s maternity leave, allowing them to hire a full-time permanent replacement;
- Demoting a pregnant worker so they won’t be eligible for health benefits during maternity leave;
- Not hiring someone because they are pregnant or plan to become pregnant;
- Refusing to make a good-faith effort to accommodate pregnancy-related work restrictions or disabilities;
- Not allowing a pregnant employee the ability to take additional breaks or sit down;
- Allowing supervisors to mock a pregnant employee for needing reasonable accommodations, being sick, or tired; and
- Eliminating a pregnant employee’s position while on leave and hiring another person who isn’t pregnant.
The psychological impact of pregnancy discrimination is often significant. It is hard enough to adapt to a new role as a mother; it is even harder when your prior identity as a reliable employee is also being called into question. Victims of pregnancy discrimination often feel vulnerable and helpless, which is exacerbated by the physical and emotional changes accompanying pregnancy.
In some cases, pregnancy discrimination is not overt. It can be as subtle as a change in attitude from supervisors or colleagues or an unexplained reduction in responsibilities. These subtler forms of discrimination are equally damaging although more challenging to prove. A skilled pregnancy discrimination attorney will be familiar with the ways employers discriminate against pregnant workers. We can identify and expose these discriminatory practices and help you navigate the negotiation or litigation process.
What Legal Protections Do Employees Have Against Pregnancy Discrimination?
Federal laws like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and state-specific regulations in California can provide the foundation for an pregnancy discrimination lawsuit. These laws protect pregnant employees’ right to take pregnancy disability leave, to seek reasonable accommodation for pregnancy-related disabilities, and to be reinstated following a leave of absence.
Three primary laws protect Oakland workers from pregnancy discrimination.
First, the Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy. This means that an employer cannot make employment decisions based on your pregnancy. Workers who suffer adverse employment actions because of pregnancy are entitled to lost wages, future lost wages, emotional distress damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs of suit. In egregious cases, an employee may also be entitled to punitive damages.
Second, the Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDLL) provides that workers who work for an employer with more than five employees are entitled to disability leave for pregnancy-related medical conditions. This includes things before giving birth, like doctor’s appointments, time off to recoup from morning sickness, or time off due to serious conditions like hyperemesis, gestational hypertension, or preeclampsia. It also includes health conditions following delivery, including recovering from giving birth or postpartum depression. Workers are entitled to be reinstated to their job upon return from up to four months of pregnancy disability leave. There is no minimum length of service to qualify for leave under the PDLL.
The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) provides employees with 12 additional weeks of unpaid leave for baby bonding. This coverage is limited to parents of newborns who meet specific eligibility criteria. Namely, the employer must have more than five employees; the employee must have been employed for at least 12 months; and the employee must have worked at least 1,250 hours in the prior year. You are entitled to a comparable position upon return from baby bonding leave.
At King & Siegel LLP, our Oakland pregnancy discrimination lawyers are knowledgeable about federal and state laws regarding pregnancy discrimination. If you have questions about whether you’re a victim of pregnancy discrimination in your workplace, please contact us for a free case review.
How an Oakland Pregnancy Discrimination Lawyer Can Help
While the law doesn’t require employees to hire lawyers in order to pursue discrimination claims, it is generally recommended. Some of the ways our Oakland pregnancy discrimination lawyers can help include the following:
- Assess your case and offer legal advice. We comprehensively evaluate your case, provide legal advice, and explain your rights under federal and California laws.
- Gather evidence and prepare your case. Your attorney will help collect and preserve all supporting evidence. We will file all legal documents and ensure legal deadlines are met.
- Negotiate a potential settlement. We will handle all communications with your employer and possible settlement negotiations. If there are any court proceedings, we will also be there to represent you.
- Provide guidance on your workplace rights and accommodations. Your attorney will discuss your rights to reasonable accommodations, maternity leave, and adjustments in the workplace when you return.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a legal advocate who can provide empathetic support during the process. Our team knows that you need space to focus on your pregnancy and your family. We do everything we can to plan upfront and minimize the burden of legal proceedings.
Why Choose King & Siegel LLP for Your Oakland Pregnancy Discrimination Lawyers
If you are facing pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, it’s crucial to hire the best advocate for your situation. You want someone who understands pregnancy discrimination laws in California and has a successful track record. At King & Siegel LLP, we recognize that pursuing a claim against your employer is intimidating and overwhelming. Partner Julian Burns King graduated from Harvard Law School and has litigated cases at some of the country’s most prominent trial firms. At previous firms, she helped clients recover over $750 million in high-exposure commercial cases and class action lawsuits. Now, she focuses on claims for pregnancy and caregiver discrimination in California, and has recovered tens of millions of dollars on behalf of California employees. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.