What to Do in the Case of Pregnancy Discrimination

It should be the most joyful time of your life, discovering you’re pregnant, but it can also be one of the most stressful. There are the obvious issues—the lethargy, the discomfort and pain, the weight gain and lack of balance—and the more subtle ones—preparing to accommodate a new life, choosing what to buy and what not to buy, baby proofing, saving up money. That should be more than enough for one woman (or one couple) to deal with, but sometimes, there’s the added fear that a job (which may be vital and irreplaceable) could also be on the line if too much time off is required or if the boss simply feels you are replaceable.

This should not be possible, this pressure. In fact, it’s illegal. According to the Cary Kane lawyers, women who are pregnant are required to be treated the same as any other employee and should not face discrimination.

The law goes beyond that. An employer with more than four employees cannot force a pregnant woman to quit or fire her because of her condition. Even more, an employer must reasonably accommodate the needs of a pregnant woman if at all possible. These accommodations can include providing more time to sit instead of stand, giving extra breaks, or even allow the woman to work in another more comfortable location.

Should there be complications in a pregnancy, an employer is also required to offer the necessary time off (up to 12 weeks).

While these requirements are somewhat murky (exactly what is a reasonable accommodation for some jobs is very debatable) and do not go far enough (there is no requirement for maternity leave), it is clear that women should not feel the risk of losing their job simply for being pregnant.

What can be done if this pressure persists? The best course is two-fold. First, document everything. If there are actual documents or emails that outright state or imply some form of discrimination, keep them. If there are activities that seem to be designed to make you uncomfortable (a sudden requirement, for instance, to stand for a meeting), keep a record of those activities and all sudden changes.

If the pressure is more subtle, still keep track of it. Ask your boss about this pressure and record his or her answer.

The second step is to go to a lawyer. Because this is a complicated issue, it’s hard for an individual to defend themselves alone. A lawyer would be able to advise whether a case needs to be brought forward. A lawyer can also give the extra weight of pressure on the employer. The risk of a lawsuit is often enough to ensure your position will be safe.

Pregnancy is hard enough without the fear of losing your job. Make sure your employer understands that. Be direct, and know your rights. Know that if you stand firm, you have the law on your side.