Roughly 85 percent of working women will become mothers at some point during their careers. There are numerous legal protections in place to ensure they aren’t discriminated for this, including California’s rule against pregnancy-based harassment as well as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, a federal law. And yet, pregnancy is often treated some sort of deviation from the ideal norm.
Almost all pregnant workers will need some time away from work to attend prenatal appointments. Others will need more time off due to the need for emergency medical care. Unfortunately, too many employers all too often respond to these needs with a penalty – which is illegal. Women go to the hospital for a few days, only to learn when they return home that they’ve lost their jobs, their health insurance and sometimes, ultimately, their homes – told their pregnancy-related hospital stays amounted to “unauthorized absences” or “no-call-no-shows.”
Some of these absences are covered under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (which allows unpaid time off for medical emergencies) but this is only applicable to companies with 50 or more workers – and employees need to have held that job for at least one year. That means 44 percent of all U.S. workers won’t have that protection.
Pregnancy discrimination attorneys fight for the rights of women and families who have been on the receiving end of this unfair treatment.
California Employee Awarded $1.7 Million for Pregnancy Discrimination
Recently, a California Correctional Institution employee in Tehachapi was awarded $1.7 million in damages for alleged pregnancy discrimination. She alleged she was not accommodated as required by law, and subsequently lost her baby. Her pregnancy discrimination lawyers say that they hope this case will shed light on the treatment of pregnant workers and mothers within the prison system, and that certain policies that opened the door to this incident will be changed.
Plaintiff reportedly requested a change in assignment during her pregnancy, noting that the possibility that she may have to use physical force in a confrontation with a prisoner might possibly harm her unborn child – which was a potential safety risk to her colleagues as well. Plaintiff was told she could remain in her current post and work until five weeks prior to her due date or accept a demotion with loss of pay and benefits. Because she could not afford to lose her job when she was expecting a baby, she remained in her post.
At seven months pregnant, she was running to intervene in a fight with a group of inmates when she fell. She suffered placental rupture from the fall, and the unborn child died. Failure to accommodate the woman was not only illegal, her attorney stated, but outrageous and callous. It amounts to gender discrimination because no man is ever put in the position of having to choose between the safety of his unborn children or his job.
Pregnancy Discrimination Not Limited by Industry
Many women say they are forced to work through sickness – even when doing so could be dangerous for them, the baby or their colleagues.
Sometimes accommodations like extra bathroom breaks, more breaks to sit and relief from lifting heavy things are denied.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.
The American Workplace Still Won’t Accommodate Pregnant Workers, Aug-Sept. 2019 Issue, The Nation