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Are You a Victim of Pregnancy Discrimination? Here’s What You Can Do.

pregnant at workEmployment Law, Pregnancy Discrimination

For some women, working during pregnancy is one of the most challenging things they will ever do. None of the usual stresses of work go away once you’re pregnant and you’re also faced with all of the nagging physical ailments that might accompany pregnancy – digestive distress, poor sleep, aches, and pains, etc.

In some cases, pregnancy brings on an entirely new type of work stress – pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.

The most common industries in which pregnant women are forced to deal with discrimination are those that are physically demanding. It can happen to any woman in any job, but women with employers who ignore their request for lighter duty or their doctors’ notes requesting an adjustment face a higher risk than those who are not in physically demanding jobs.

Heavy lifting and working in a dangerous environment can put a pregnancy at risk and when you’re working in an environment where you aren’t allowed to adjust your workload based on your physical condition, it could be a case of pregnancy discrimination.

What Does Pregnancy Discrimination Look Like?

Pregnancy discrimination occurs in all industries.

In addition to employers ignoring physical limitations or doctor’s recommendations during pregnancy, pregnant women also find they are denied pay raises or promotions, or let go before their maternity leave begins.

There are federal and state laws in place that protect women from pregnancy discrimination and it is 100 percent illegal to fire a woman because of pregnancy. But it still happens. In most cases, the employer will attempt to mask pregnancy as the true reason for their actions, but it’s often easy to detect.

For instance, if you are fired:

  • Just after your employer first learns about your pregnancy…
  • After you ask for time off or accommodation for your pregnancy…
  • While on maternity leave…
  • Within the first year after returning from leave…

There is cause for questioning your circumstances.

Dealing with Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace

So what should you do if you are pregnant and concerned about your employment situation?

First, you need to know how much of a risk you face.

If your doctor told you your pregnancy is categorized as high-risk, you need to be concerned regardless of your work. Whatever guidelines your doctor has given you concerning your specific circumstances are what you must adhere to.

If you have a normal risk pregnancy, though, there is still reason to be concerned, depending on the industry in which you are employed. According to the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, there is a slight to moderate increase in the risk of miscarriage for women for whom lifting is a frequent part of their job.

Next, if you believe your rights have been violated in the workplace, you should contact an attorney to discuss your options.

New York’s Pregnancy Discrimination Laws

New York employers are not permitted to discriminate against pregnant or working mothers. They cannot discriminate against pregnant women by refusing to offer them a job, promotion, or other benefits due to their pregnancy. As long as you can perform the tasks of the job, you must be treated the same as any other employee.

Current employees who become pregnant cannot be forced to take a leave of absence unless they are unable to perform their job duties. Pregnant women also cannot be fired just for being pregnant. There are also cases in which employers must provide reasonable accommodations to help pregnant women perform their jobs.

Pregnancy discrimination is seen as a form of gender discrimination and New York law makes it illegal for employers or coworkers to create a hostile work environment based on pregnancy.

Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), pregnant women are granted leave benefits associated with time off from work due to pregnancy. New York state disability laws might also provide temporary benefits for pregnant women who are experiencing a pregnancy-related disability.

Finally, the New York State Human Rights Law provides additional protection for pregnant women. Under the law, many of the same protections offered in the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) receive protection, but New York’s law applies to a broader range of employers than the federal law. In New York, as long as an employer has four or more employees, the employer must adhere to the guidelines.

To read more about New York’s Human Rights Law, check out this information.

If you believe you are the victim of pregnancy discrimination or you have questions about your rights in the workplace during pregnancy, contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. to schedule a free consultation.


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