Pregnancy is often a time that is both exciting and stressful for the expectant mother. Particularly if this is her first pregnancy, she may not know what to expect or how her body will react to the demands of creating a new life.
Some women are able to remain at work throughout their entire pregnancy, while others develop conditions like gestational diabetes or preeclampsia that require medical supervision and possibly bed rest. There are also countless women who fall in between those two extremes. They may be able to continue working, provided that their employers accommodate their medical needs.
Unfortunately, pregnant women often face discrimination from their employers, despite federal law specifically prohibiting this kind of discrimination.
Some companies just won’t accommodate pregnant women
Some of the restrictions that women have regarding the work they perform during pregnancy may include a limitation on how much they lift and a need for frequent breaks, as swelling of the legs and feet can often occur later in pregnancy. Generally speaking, employers have an obligation to make a reasonable effort to accommodate special medical needs that their employees have.
Unless the accommodation represents a hardship on the business, they should make every effort to continue working with employees who develop disabilities or medical conditions. Unfortunately, some employers will simply refuse to change a woman’s work duties or allow her to work from home if she has a medical order for bed rest. This form of discrimination can often result in a woman quitting her job, as she may not want to endanger her pregnancy just to protect her income.
Some employers will make it impossible to reintegrate after maternity leave
Beyond reasonable accommodations, pregnant workers have other rights as well. One of those rights is the right to take medical leave for the birth of a child and then return either to the same position with the company or a comparable one. Some businesses discriminate against pregnant workers by making it difficult or downright impossible for them to return to work.
They may violate a woman’s basic rights regarding lactation, such as a safe and private place where she can pump breast milk during her shift. Other times, they may simply try to demote her, transfer her to other work or tell her that someone else has taken over her position. Employers can even start documenting minor infractions allegedly made by the newly returned worker in order to justify firing them shortly after.
Women who face discrimination from their employers because of their pregnancy or the recent birth of their child may be able to take legal action against their employer for the financial impact on their family and the long-term impact on their career and earning potential.