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  • 5.370 cases were filed against government agencies last year alleging discrimination in pregnancy at work.Most common complaint is: They were fired by their employers because they had become pregnant.

    Since 1978, it’s illegal to discriminate against pregnant workers in the workplace. Employers still don’t get it, so last week, a government agency issued a reminder.

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released new guidance for interpreting the PDA, and other laws that protect pregnant women on the job for the first time in thirty years. Here are the facts.

    1. Employers cannot fire a pregnant woman for being unfit to work.

    Employers sometimes try to hide discrimination behind good intentions. For example, they might say that they are concerned about safety. Other cases are more obvious. It’s illegal in any case.

    This is an example of a Houston-area wings restaurant chain. The policy stated that female employees would be fired if they were pregnant for more than three months. Eight pregnant employees were laid off after a federal investigation. Investigators were told by a manager that it was “irresponsible” to keep pregnant employees working at the company if her child is not safe. 

    Companies cannot fire employees because of this. Even if a job involves lifting heavy objects or exposure to toxic chemicals, exceptions are rare. Courts have held that the decision about safety for the mother and the fetus is up to the worker and her doctor and not the boss.

    2. A woman who is pregnant or may become pregnant cannot be refused employment by a company.

    Peggy Mastroianni (Legal Counsel at the EEOC), said that this is very common with low-wage workers.

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    This problem can even occur at companies that depend on pregnant women to be their customers.

    Motherhood Maternity, a Philadelphia-based clothing retailer, paid $375,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging discrimination and retaliation. The suit arose after three women were denied employment by the company because they were pregnant.

    Hiring a woman to be a husband is illegal as she could become pregnant.

    Vicki Shabo is vice president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. She stated that there is still a stigma about hiring younger women for certain jobs.

    3. Mothers who are new mothers have the right of pumping breast milk at work in a safe environment. A company can’t fire or discriminate against a lactating woman.

    Thanks to Obamacare, you can have this protection.

    Employers must offer reasonable breaks to mothers who breastfeed for up to one-year after the birth of a child under the Affordable Care Act. Employers must also provide safe and private places for mothers to breastfeed, other than a toilet.

    Small companies are exempt from this rule. A company with less than 50 employees may be able to prove that it is unable to provide breaks or private space to its employees.

    4. Some women may be entitled to special accommodations if they have pregnancy-related issues.

    A normal pregnancy with no complications is not considered to be a disability under federal law. It does not give rise to special treatment.

    Women with complications or temporary impairments due to pregnancy must be treated in the same way as workers with medical impairments.

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    A company may have a policy that allows a worker to take a temporary assignment of light duty for a few months if he hurt his back. However, the company must also provide “reasonable accommodations” to a pregnant woman who needs light-duty because of her pregnancy.

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    Other reasonable accommodations include

    • Allowing a worker to sit down on a stool during her shift.
    • She can change her work schedule if she is suffering from severe morning sickness.
    • This allows her to have a water bottle on her desk.

    A doctor’s note is usually required by workers to establish a temporary medical condition. Common impairments in pregnancy include:

    • Severe morning sickness.
    • Back pain.
    • High blood pressure.
    • Complications that require bed rest and gestational diabetes.

    While there are exceptions to this rule, employers must prove that providing accommodation would not cause undue hardship to their company.

    5. If you are still capable of doing your job, an employer can’t force you to leave or change jobs.

    An employer may think they are acting in an employee’s best interests or protecting themselves from liability when they reassign a mother or father to a more strenuous job.

    Employers can’t base their employment decisions on assumptions regarding pregnant women’s abilities and health.

    A boss can’t prevent a pregnant worker traveling on business trips because he is concerned about her health. Employers cannot refuse to give a pregnant woman a promotion if they assume she will be less committed to her job after she has given birth. Employers can’t reassign employees to less desirable jobs due to concerns about a pregnant woman.

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    Mothers returning to work after having a child are also eligible for this

    Women may not get the same opportunities when they return from leave because it is assumed that they want to relax because they have young children. This can still be considered discrimination,” Tracy Billows, a partner with Seyfarth Shaw who specializes in labor and employment law, said.

    6. Both men and women must have equal access to non-medical leaves.

    Maternity leaves are granted only to women. However, if the company has a policy that allows non-medical leave to bond with children, then male employees can also be entitled to the same amount as women.

    The only developed country that doesn’t require paid maternity leave is the United States. The Family and Medical Leave Act requires some employers to provide up to 12 weeks unpaid leave for female and male employees to care for a newborn child. However, this law does not cover 42% of American workers.

    7. Harassment based on pregnancy, birth or other related circumstances is not allowed.

    Workplace harassment is prohibited. Although a few remarks about a pregnant woman won’t be considered harassment, it is illegal to make repeated offensive comments or insults that can create an hostile work environment.

    8. An abortion is not a cause for firing.

    The Pregnancy Discrimination Act provides protection for women who have had or are considering having an abortion.

    Are you being discriminated against? Here are some ways to deal with discrimination

    It can be difficult to prove discrimination. However, keeping records will help you piece together conversations you had with your employer as well as actions taken against your. You may need to prove that you were treated differently from other workers with similar qualifications or performance records in order to prove discrimination.

    Women start to manufacture

    Make an appointment to meet with an EEOC counselor from your area.

    About 1 in 4 of all pregnancy discrimination claims received by the EEOC are resolved in favor of the worker. The remaining 75% of cases are rejected for various reasons including insufficient evidence, improper jurisdiction, or private settlements with workers.

    Although it may seem like a high success rate for discrimination cases, 25% is still a significant number. Pregnancy discrimination cases are more likely than any other discrimination charges brought to the EEOC. This includes complaints about race or religion and age-related discrimination at work.

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