People have a tendency to trust their employer and the HR department. After all, they’ve been in business a while, right? But this is not always in your best interest. Employers can misunderstand or misinterpret the law unknowingly. They’re not employment lawyers and may not stay up-to-date with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) rulings, new State and Federal laws and regulations and recent court cases. Because of this, it’s important you know your rights.
Understanding the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act entitles pregnant women to:
- Fair treatment.
- Treatment that is exactly the same as other employees. For instance, an employee cannot be passed over for a job just because she is pregnant nor can an employer require a pregnant employee to lift weight that others are not required to lift.
- Parity with non-pregnancy health issues.
- A medical incapacity due to pregnancy must be handled in the same way a non-pregnancy medical condition would be. If reasonable accommodations were made for others, they should be made for the pregnant employee as well.
But pregnancy is protected by other laws as well. Pregnancy discrimination can also be a form of sex discrimination and if you are disabled by pregnancy, you could be covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. You may also be eligible for a leave of absence under the Family & Medical Leave Act for prenatal care, a serious health condition associated with your pregnancy, maternity (and paternity leave) and time off to care for your child if your child suffers from a serious health condition.
There is a lot of opportunity for discrimination when it comes to pregnancy. Some of the most common issues come from disparity in treatment between employees. For instance, an employer may purchase a special ergonomic chair for an employee with a back problem but may refuse to do it for a pregnant employee thinking that pregnancy is only a temporary condition.
Other common pregnancy discrimination examples are:
- A pregnant employee being passed over for a promotion because the employer assumes she won’t have the time or inclination to put forth the effort once the baby is born, or the manager may not want someone in a position that will be vacant for several months while she is on maternity leave.
- Turning down a job candidate because she’s obviously pregnant. While it may good for transparency’s sake to let a potential employer know that you are pregnant, you are not obligated to disclose health information (including your pregnancy) to a potential employer as long as you are able to perform the job duties required for the position.
- Not making allowances for doctor’s appointments for a pregnant employee when you allow it for others with an ongoing condition.
Sadly, it’s not just employers who have negative thoughts about pregnancy in the workplace. Look at the number of articles written on Marissa Mayer, head of Yahoo, on her pregnancies. NYU’s Stern School of Business’ Marketing Professor Scott Galloway, said of Mayer on Bloomberg TV where he was also a contributing editor, “If she hadn’t announced she was pregnant with twins, she’d be out of a job within six months.” While we’re not all under the same scrutiny that Mayer is, it’s important to know that pregnancy and sex discrimination takes on many forms.
If you believe you’ve been treated unfairly because of your pregnancy, seek out Tampa employment attorneys who can advise you of your rights. Employers don’t always know what their legal obligations are. At Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, PA we have experience helping employees who face discrimination.