In the late 1970s, our federal government added an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The amendment, called the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA), makes discrimination based on pregnancy an unlawful type of sex discrimination, which Title VII prohibits.
In addition to making pregnancy discrimination illegal, the PDA requires employers to treat pregnant women as if they have a temporary disability, affording them all the same accommodations as they would an employee with a non-pregnancy-related temporary disability. New York State has laws that address pregnancy discrimination much the same way but cover more employers. In New York, pregnancy discrimination may be sex discrimination and a form of discrimination based on familial status or disability.
If it is unlawful to prohibit employers from discriminating against applicants and employees because of pregnancy, why don’t we see more women filing claims against their employers? Is it because employers are not discriminating? Probably not. A more likely explanation is that pregnant women are not familiar with the laws that protect them or are too afraid of losing their jobs to seek help.
At Leeds Brown Law, P.C. our gender discrimination lawyers know that working women face many challenges that come with pregnancy and motherhood. We are here to help get you through those challenges when they affect the way your employer treats you and compensates you. Whether you are a single mother with a low-wage job or married with a white-collar position, your rights are the same. Your employer may not discriminate against you because you are pregnant. Your employer must make reasonable accommodations if you need them.
Our compassionate, experienced lawyers represent women in New York City, on Long Island and the surrounding counties, who experience discrimination based on pregnancy. We have a track record of receiving favorable outcomes for employees in gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and pregnancy discrimination cases. We take pride in the work we do, and it shows in the way we serve our clients. You shouldn’t have to choose between your pregnancy and your job.
Many women may not realize that what they are experiencing at work is unlawful discrimination. Sometimes pregnancy discrimination is as direct as refusing to hire a woman because she is seven months pregnant and you don’t like the way it looks to your customers. Other times, pregnancy discrimination is based on stereotypes about women and their abilities to work when they are pregnant or have children.
The following are some of the most common ways that employers may violate the law when it comes to the treatment of their pregnant employees.
Refusing to hire someone – Pregnant women need a lot of time off from work. Pregnant women can’t make good decisions. Women who are or will eventually get pregnant will need maternity leave, and that is very disruptive to my business. These are just a few of the excuses employers use to refuse to hire women. But, an employer may not refuse to hire you because you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. An employer may also not refuse to hire you because you are a woman and the employer believes you may become pregnant at some time in the future. A decision not to hire a woman based on stereotypes about pregnancy, motherhood, and gender is discriminatory.
Harassment because of pregnancy – When a supervisor or co-worker (or co-workers) make nasty, insulting, or derogatory comments about your pregnancy, the way you look, or your work since becoming pregnant, it can affect the workplace. When such comments create a hostile environment, it may be unlawful.
For example, when your supervisor tells everyone at work that you are not getting your work done because of “baby brain,” the whole office begins to scrutinize your time at the office. It becomes difficult for you to face everyone and you feel like your supervisor wants you out.
Harassment and discrimination because of nursing or pumping breastmilk are also unlawful when the behavior creates a hostile work environment.
Firing or otherwise discriminating against someone for being or becoming pregnant – Your employer may not fire you for being pregnant or for a pregnancy-related condition. For example, if you work in a warehouse and your job requires heavy lifting, your employer may not terminate your employment because he or she is worried you will hurt the baby. That is a decision for you and your doctor to make.
Your employer may not let you go or refuse to promote you because you are pregnant, and the decision is “for your own good.” Your employer may not decide that you should do less work, or be reassigned if you can’t perform as usual.
An employer must treat pregnant and non-pregnant people the same when it comes to benefits like personal days and sick days. For example, an employer may not deny permission for a pregnant woman to come in late because of a doctor appointment if a non-pregnant person would be permitted to go.
Failing to provide reasonable accommodations – The laws require employers to treat pregnancy as they would any other short-term disability and to provide reasonable accommodations as they would for a non-pregnant worker. For example, a pregnant cashier requests a stool, so she can occasionally sit and ease some of the pressure on her back the pregnancy is causing. The employer must accommodate her the same way it would a non-pregnant worker with a back problem. A worker who needs to make frequent trips to the restroom must be treated the same whether the need arises from pregnancy or another medical condition. An employer who does not provide similar accommodations may be violating the law.
Retaliation – As is the case with nearly all anti-discrimination laws; employers may not retaliate against anyone who files a complaint of pregnancy discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the corresponding state agency, the New York State Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR), participates in an investigation about it or opposes it. For example, your employer may not fire you, demote you, cut your hours or pay because you filed a pregnancy discrimination claim with the EEOC or NYSDHR or discussed your problem with your supervisor. Your employer may not punish you or target you for trying to enforce your right to work in a place free from discrimination.
Pregnancy discrimination attorneys at Leeds Brown, representing employees on Long Island, in New York City, and the surrounding counties, know that it can be difficult to prove pregnancy discrimination and retaliation. We have the skills and resources to help you navigate an administrative claim, negotiate a settlement and represent you in the courtroom if that is the road you wish to take.
We have built a reputation for providing aggressive yet compassionate representation for employees across New York. When you experience workplace discrimination and harassment because of pregnancy, gender or disability, speak with attorneys at Leeds Brown.
There are time limits to file claims for pregnancy discrimination. Until we hear about your case, we don’t know how much time you have. Your case evaluation is free so don’t wait to call. Someone is available to speak with you 24/7. Call 1-800-585-4658 and find out if you are entitled to compensation for damages caused by pregnancy discrimination.