What You Need to Know About Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace

pregnant woman sitting at desk working
Pregnancy should be a happy time. For some women, however, it can come with anxiety over employer perceptions. In certain cases, these concerns may escalate if an employer’s opinions devolve to harassment and discrimination, leading to a hostile work environment.

According to The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), pregnancy is protected from discrimination related to general employment – including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, and fringe benefits. At the same time, pregnancy affords a woman the same rights as a disabled person – namely, fair treatment. Based on PDA, she is protected from discrimination related to her condition and she must also receive special consideration when it comes to job performance.

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FMLA Provisions for Pregnancy

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) outlines provisions for women that apply to situations both during and post-pregnancy. Typically, if you are a full-time employee you are eligible for leave under the FMLA.

An employer is required to provide 12 weeks of job-protected leave if you are incapacitated during your pregnancy—i.e. a doctor prescribes you period of bed rest due to a pregnancy-related illness—or to care for your child after birth. Special circumstances may also apply for arrangements related to adoption of child care.

The leave is unpaid and can be used all at once or intermittently – for example, as recommended by a doctor. According to the FMLA, you must provide 30 days’ notice of the requested leave period. If it is not possible to do so, such as in the case of a medical emergency, you must provide notice as early as possible.

Discrimination, Wrongful Termination, and Other Issues

You may have been discriminated against if your employer failed to provide adequate leave or attempted to block your leave for reasons related to your job performance and pregnancy. Furthermore, if your employer failed to provide an equivalent position or pay upon your return, you may also have a case.

Your employer is responsible for informing you of your FMLA eligibility. If you believe your employer lied about your eligibility in an attempt to block your leave, for example, you may have a case for discrimination.

Even if an employer did not interfere with the leave itself, rather he or she didn’t protect your job or health coverage, you may have grounds for a lawsuit due to violation of FMLA. Additionally, you may have a case for discrimination if your employer claims you can’t return to your previous position or pay due to your pregnancy or new role as a parent.

When it comes to wrongful termination, it’s important to note that Florida is an at-will or right-to-work state, meaning an employer may terminate you without reason; however, it’s unlawful and discriminatory for an employer to fire you for reasons related to your pregnancy.

It’s often possible for discrimination to give way to hostile workplace claims due to harassment. It’s against the law for an employer or employees to make inappropriate comments related to your pregnancy, sex life, or even contraception. A discriminatory work environment may create a breeding ground for hostile behavior.

What To Do If Your Rights Were Violated

An attorney with extensive employment law knowledge and experience can work with you to determine if your rights were violated. If you believe you were a victim of pregnancy discrimination, a lawyer can help you build a case based on provisions in the PDA, FMLA, or Federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Laws.

Contact Wenzel, Fenton, Cabassa, P.A. today for a free consultation regarding your pregnancy or workplace discrimination.

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