The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA) protects pregnant women from being discriminated against based on their pregnancy. The law states that pregnant women must be treated the same as other employees. However, this law only applies to companies that are larger than fifteen people.
Where does that leave women working for small businesses?
While the PDA only affects businesses larger than fifteen employees, (those companies with fewer employees are seen as having an unfair burden on their business to be forced to hold positions open, make special arrangements, etc. and so they are not required to do so) it is still in a business’s best interest to treat employees fairly if for no other reason than to guard against turnover and keep morale high.
For this reason, pregnancy discrimination recourse may best be handled in the following ways:
Understanding the Rules
If you were issued an employee handbook, which is unlikely in a small business, check what it says about maternity leave, pregnancy policy, and other family-specific sections. If you don’t have an employee handbook, speak with the person in charge of hiring and firing – the owner, office manager, or your manager. Understand what the company offers and whether they adhered to those established rules. Take notes of all conversations including details of who was involved, what they said, and when they said it.
Many poor reactions are based on fear of what will happen to the business in your absence. Do your best to put these fears to rest by creating a transition plan and training anyone who will be taking over your responsibilities while you’re out. If you show an interest in the business, your employer will be more likely to work with you.
Tried in the Court of Public Opinion
Sometimes for small companies the highest court is that of public opinion. While it may be within their legal rights to fire you, replace you, or refuse to adhere to any medical accommodations you may need, the public generally will be less understanding than the law. If a company feels that mistreatment of a pregnant woman will cost them business, they may adhere to the PDA even though it’s not required by law.
However, keep in mind that if you take your case to the court of public opinion, getting your job back may be difficult. Your employer will probably feel betrayed and angry. Even if your employer reinstates you, the relationship may be beyond repair. It is difficult to work in a hostile environment, especially as a new, or soon-to-be, parent.
If you have further questions about what companies must adhere to the PDA or whether you are disability covered employee, talk to the employment law experts at Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. today to discuss your options.