Pregnancy discrimination in the workplace has been receiving a lot of attention recently because of the US Supreme Court case involving UPS. In the case, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 is under scrutiny. Justices will make a decision as to what “adequate accommodation of pregnant women” means. Their decision may radically affect what employers with more than 15 people can and cannot do when it comes to the treatment of pregnant employees. In the meantime, here are a few things employers can do to stop pregnancy discrimination:
Create a Policy
Creating a policy to ensure every manager and supervisor understands all employees should be treated equally is a good first step. The policy should be placed in your employee handbook and enumerate the process of escalating uncertain concerns like whether an employee can continue to do her job or not.
The policy should also state (and managers must understand) that every claim of pregnancy discrimination will be investigated and handled with sensitivity and discretion.
Review Job Descriptions
A pregnant employee can be fired if she is unable to complete her job duties. However, you cannot claim something is an essential job duty if it’s not listed in the job description. Before you have an employee share her happy news, make sure all of your job descriptions are up-to-date with the essentials of that position.
Equal Leave Time and Treatment
The company must allow for equal leave time for a pregnant employee and one with medical concerns. If a doctor’s note is required after extensive time off for one employee, it must be required for the other as well.
While the law may not dictate the need for special accommodations, if it’s not medically necessary, the company should give some thought to the effect of how morale could be affected if reasonable accommodations aren’t made. The key here is reasonable.
If a pregnant employee is unable to do all of her job duties, or when she is out on maternity leave, ensure that the employees entrusted with covering for her are compensated in some way. While disgruntled employees do not directly affect discrimination in the workplace, they can create a hostile work environment and problems for managers and supervisors. Addressing these issues before they become major problems is best.
Understand How the ADA Comes into Play
A pregnant employee may be covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act if your company employs more than 15 employees and the employee has a physical infirmity or complication due to pregnancy or childbirth. This could include being unable to walk long distances or lift heavy objects. For an employer to deny a reasonable accommodation, you must be able to prove it placed an undue hardship on the business.
Pregnancy discrimination in the workplace is a growing problem. We’ll most likely see some big changes coming with the Supreme Court Case.
If you believe you’ve been a victim of discrimination, you need a tenacious employment lawyer on your side to help you make sense of the law and fight for your rights. Pregnancy should be a happy time not one where your main concern is losing your job.
Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. has helped thousands of Floridians understand their rights. Contact us today for a free consultation at 813-579-2483.