What is pregnancy discrimination?
While some types of discrimination are easy to recognize, that is not always the case with pregnancy discrimination. Below are a few examples of ways that an employer may discriminate on the basis of pregnancy:
Declining to hire a pregnant woman: Employers cannot make a hiring decision based on the fact that a woman is pregnant. Additionally, employers cannot rely on their belief that a woman may become pregnant in the future. You are under no obligation to discuss pregnancy at a job interview.
Refusing to provide a pregnant employee with required leave: Employers are responsible for providing eligible pregnant employees with all required state and federal family or medical leave. The fact that an employee’s pregnancy may be inconvenient for an employer does not impact the employee’s rights.
Firing a pregnant employee: Employers cannot fire an employee because of her pregnancy or related health conditions. Employees are also guaranteed the same job when returning from pregnancy leave, although in some circumstances they may also be given a different but comparable job. This is not an absolute protection against firing. If the employer can show they would have terminated the employee regardless of the pregnancy, they may have the legal right to do so. But even if your employer lets you go for a seemingly legitimate reason, such as a layoff, it is wise to consult an employment attorney.
Harassing an employee for pumping: Employers must provide a space, other than the restroom, for employees to pump breast milk. In addition, employers must do what they can to create a safe workplace for pumping employees. Along these lines, employers cannot fire an employee for taking pumping breaks.
Retaliating against employees who file discrimination claims: Employees have the right to file a California pregnancy discrimination claim, or to report suspected discrimination to their manager or to H.R. Employers who take any adverse action based on an employee’s actions in pursuing a claim against the employer may give rise to a separate claim of retaliation.
Pregnancy discrimination may be obvious, or it may not be. Often, an employee’s initial gut feeling that their employer’s actions “feel wrong” is a good indication that an employer engaged in illegal employment practices. Those who believe they have been the victim of pregnancy discrimination should reach out to a dedicated Bay Area employment attorney for immediate assistance.