Discrimination of pregnant workers is unlawful in California workplaces – an important protection given that women make up half the workforce and 85 percent of working women will become mothers at some point in their careers. And yet, research shows that over the last decade, there have been more than 50,000 pregnancy discrimination claims filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. That excludes strictly state-level claims as well as instances that occurred but were never reported.
Recent analysis of national census figures reveal women in the United States work longer during pregnancy and return to work much sooner post-childbirth than ever before. Yet employers too often fail to follow the law, which is to provide reasonable accommodations for women temporarily impaired by a pregnancy- or childbirth-related condition – just as they would any other employee with a disability.
As our Los Angeles employment lawyers can explain, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, which amends Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. It is applicable to individuals (employees and applicants) who are disparately treated in a way that’s unfavorable in any aspect of employment. That can include hiring, termination, salary, tasks and assignments, promotions and benefits, training opportunities, promotions, and other conditions or terms of employment.
What Does Pregnancy Discrimination Look Like?
Even knowing there are laws in place to protect pregnant workers, it’s not always easy to recognize when you’re the one being impacted.
Some examples of California pregnancy discrimination:
- Being subjected to verbal harassment and/or subtle hostility at work in the form of social isolation, rude or intrusive comments, inappropriate jokes, etc.
- Being subjected to different treatment based on negative stereotypes (i.e., lower job performance expectations). This includes limiting opportunities, such as placing pregnant workers on involuntary leave, refusing to allow them to continue working beyond a certain point in the pregnancy, reducing their regular hours, limiting their work assignments, etc.
- Refusing to hire someone because they are pregnant or plan to get pregnant.
- Being transferred to less desirable shifts or assignments.
- Loss of seniority or benefits while taking pregnancy disability leave.
- Requiring medical clearances that aren’t required for non-pregnant workers.
- Denial of reasonable accommodations in the work environment or way the job is done in order to accommodate a pregnancy disability so that you can continue to perform essential job functions.
- Denial of breaks at work for lactation or expression of milk in a private location.
A Los Angeles pregnancy discrimination case recently made headlines recently when the plaintiff – a pharmacist – settled a claim against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and a staffing company. According to local news reports, plaintiff alleged she was wrongfully terminated as a result of pregnancy discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The pharmacist had been hired in late 2018 and became pregnant about five months later. Immediately after she informed her employer(s) that she was expecting a child, her supervisors began harassing her. There were constant comments about her appetite and how everyone else had to work harder because of her condition. She took a leave of absence and following her return, she learned her pay was being reduced and she’d been stripped of certain key job duties. Supervisors also reportedly denied her training the other workers had received, and they complained that it had been “a lot of work” to bring her back on board after she’d given birth. A couple months later, she was fired for “poor job performance” – a basis she alleged was pretextual.
If you believe you have been impacted by pregnancy discrimination, our Los Angeles employment lawyers can help.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Newport Beach, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.
Fact Sheet on Recent EEOC Pregnancy-Discrimination Litigation, EEOC