pregnancy discrimination lawyer

Proving A Claim Of California Pregnancy Discrimination

Historically, employees were able to consider whether a woman was pregnant or may become pregnant when making hiring and firing decisions. However, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) changed that. Under the PDA, as well as corresponding California laws, employers can no longer discriminate against an employee because they are pregnant.

What Is Pregnancy Discrimination?

The most apparent examples of pregnancy discrimination are when an employer either does not hire an applicant or fires an employee because they are pregnant. To be sure, this happens. However, more often, pregnancy discrimination is a bit more nuanced.

Pregnancy discrimination can take many forms. An employer’s actions that may seem kind-hearted may be based on impermissible assumptions based on their paternalistic beliefs. For example, the following scenarios could all constitute pregnancy discrimination in the workplace:

  • An employer’s decision not to promote a woman because she is pregnant;
  • An employer’s decision not to hire a woman because she is “childbearing age” and may become pregnant;
  • An employer’s refusal to provide a pregnant employee with the required state or federal leave;
  • An employer’s decision to transfer an employee, against their will, to a less “dangerous” position;
  • An employer’s decision to lay off a pregnant worker because of their belief that the workplace is too dangerous or not suitable for them;
  • An employer’s failure to make reasonable accommodations for a woman to pump breastmilk while at the office; and
  • An employer’s failure to create a harassment-free environment for pregnant employees.

Only a few of these examples result in an employee being fired or laid off. And in most cases, an employer will not tell an employee their decision is based on the fact that they are pregnant. However, that does not change the fact that the employer’s actions are, indeed, discriminatory.

When it comes to proving a claim of California pregnancy discrimination, an employee must meet several elements. The exact elements will depend on the type of discrimination, and the adverse employment actions taken by the employer. However, when considering a failure-to-hire claim, an employee must be able to show:

  • They were pregnant;
  • They were qualified for the job they applied for;
  • They were not hired; and
  • The employer’s decision not to hire them was based on their pregnancy.

Reviewing these elements, the first three seem pretty cut-and-dry, and in most cases, they are. However, proving the causal connection between an employee’s pregnancy and the employer’s decision not to hire them can be challenging. Often, employers offer legal reasons for their choices, even if that reason was not their real motivation. However, most employers know enough about employment law to know not to do that. Instead, they give seemingly valid reasons for their decisions, such as an employee’s poor work performance.

In some cases, an employer may tell an employee they are being transferred “for their own good.” However, unless the employee is in favor of the transfer, this too can constitute discrimination because a woman’s body is her own, and it is not an employer’s place to say what is “too dangerous” or “not suitable” for a pregnant woman.

An employer cannot take any action against an employee for initiating a claim. Employees who file an employment lawsuit are protected under state and federal law. If an employer takes adverse action against an employee because they raised a claim of discrimination, this can give rise to a separate cause of action called a retaliation claim. A retaliation claim is independent of the underlying claim, meaning that even if the pregnancy discrimination is dismissed, a retaliation claim can still proceed.

California pregnancy discrimination laws are complex, and those employees who believe that they have been discriminated against should reach out to a dedicated Bay Area employment lawyer for immediate assistance. To learn more visit

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