Guide to Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Lawsuits

Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts

While we often think of pregnancy as a happy time for a family, many pregnant people face unjust discrimination because of their condition. Often, pregnant employees are met with adverse employment actions from employers.

Pregnancy discrimination typically occurs in the workplace and includes adverse actions against pregnant employees simply because they are pregnant. Common examples might include being passed over for promotions, assigned less work, or even denied employment because you are pregnant. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, a federal law, covers people affected by childbirth and medical conditions that might be related. To prove pregnancy discrimination, you must show that your boss knew you were pregnant and that you suffered adverse employment action despite being qualified for your job. Additionally, you must show a connection between your pregnancy and the adverse action. Available relief varies, but you might claim lost income from being denied employment advancement or even job reinstatement if you were fired. You should speak to an attorney about your case as soon as possible.

Set up a case evaluation free of charge with our Penn State pregnancy discrimination attorneys at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin by calling (814) 826-3586.

What is Pregnancy Discrimination?

Pregnancy discrimination is a form of employment discrimination that affects pregnant people or those affected by childbirth. When a person becomes pregnant or applies for work while pregnant, employers might make adverse employment or hiring decisions because of the pregnancy. Under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act found under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k), pregnant people are entitled to the same treatment at work as other employees.

Pregnancy discrimination is not always overt, and employers might not be consciously aware of the discrimination. However, that does not mean that discrimination is not happening. There might be discrimination if an employer’s policy results in pregnant people being treated unfairly or differently compared to non-pregnant coworkers with the same abilities and skills.

Pregnancy discrimination does not necessarily have to affect income or job opportunities. You might still face pregnancy discrimination if you are afforded fewer privileges or benefits than your coworkers because of your pregnancy.

Common Examples of Pregnancy Discrimination

Our pregnancy discrimination attorneys have seen discrimination take a myriad of forms with various negative consequences for employees. Commonly affected areas of a person’s job that might be affected include salary, working conditions, job perks or privileges, and opportunities for advancement. Pregnant people who face discrimination often face significant professional setbacks that can seriously hinder their career trajectory.

Salary and Wages

Perhaps the biggest concern for plaintiffs in many employment discrimination cases, including pregnancy discrimination, is salary. People with the same job, skills, and abilities should generally be paid the same salary. Unless a similarly situated coworker has been working for much longer than you, your salaries should be the same or similar. Unfortunately, pregnant employees often see a reduction in their salary or earnings.

For example, suppose you are hired for a new job while several months pregnant. Next, suppose that you discover your employer is paying you a lower salary than your similarly situated, non-pregnant coworkers because they know you will soon be on parental leave, and they do not want to spend money on an absent employee. This is a prime example of pregnancy discrimination. You could also see a reduction in earnings if your employer puts you on the schedule less because they know you are pregnant and assume you cannot work as much.

Work Conditions

Pregnancy discrimination might also affect your work conditions, including where and how you work and certain perks or privileges. For example, if you work in a client-facing position, your employer might decide to move you to a “back of house” position because a pregnant employee does not fit their idea of the company image.

You might also face pregnancy discrimination if your employer treats you differently. For example, they might communicate with you less or treat you as a less capable employee because you are pregnant. This is often rooted in unfair assumptions that pregnant people are in delicate positions and that any physical or mental exertion is difficult or impossible.

Promotion and Advancement

Another way pregnancy discrimination can cause problems is by interfering with promotion or professional advancement. It is not unheard of for employers to pass over pregnant employees for promotions because they do not believe a pregnant person can handle greater responsibilities, or they do not want to promote someone only to send them home on parental leave. Such discrimination could have long-term consequences on your career.

What the Pregnancy Discrimination Act Covers

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act covers various situations and circumstances involving pregnant employees and employees affected by pregnancy in some way. Discrimination might occur for various reasons at numerous levels. Perhaps you are fired by your boss because they do not want to pay for your parental leave. Maybe you are facing harassment from coworkers because you chose to terminate a pregnancy. Speak to a lawyer about the problems you have at work, and they can help you determine if you are facing unlawful discrimination.

The Act generally covers adverse employment actions against employees because they are pregnant. As mentioned above, an adverse employment action might include decisions about salary, promotions, working conditions, fringe benefits, and various other aspects of your job.

Not only are pregnant employees covered, but employees who are not pregnant but could become pregnant are also covered. This is important for people who have openly discussed at work their desire to start a family only to face discrimination later.

Additionally, people who were pregnant in the past may be covered if they face discrimination. This might include someone who recently had a baby, and their boss refuses to promote them because they think their new family responsibilities will interfere with work.

The Act also covers various medical conditions related to pregnancy. Pregnancy can be unpredictable. While many pregnant people have smooth, uneventful pregnancies, others experience various medical conditions or complications. For example, conditions like high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and iron deficiency anemia are somewhat common. You might be facing discrimination if your employer imposes adverse employment actions because of pregnancy-related conditions.

Issues related to pregnancy might also be covered. For example, issues regarding the termination of a pregnancy or whether you take birth control might be used by employers to justify adverse employment actions.

How to Prove Pregnancy Discrimination

Proving pregnancy discrimination cases can be very challenging. Finding the necessary evidence to support your claims might be one of the toughest aspects of your case. To prove your claims, you need to establish several crucial elements.

First, you have to establish that you are pregnant or were pregnant at the time of the adverse employment action and that your employer knew about your pregnancy. We can use your medical records to prove you were in fact pregnant. Our pregnancy discrimination lawyers can use employment records that reflect the adverse employment action to show how the adverse action and pregnancy occurred at the same time.

The hard part is proving your boss knew about the pregnancy. Written communications like emails or letters from your employer addressing your pregnancy are critical. Without them, you might have a hard time moving your claims forward.

Second, you must show that you are qualified for the job. Adverse employment actions are not unlawful or wrongful if they are taken because the employee is not fit for the job. You can certainly be fired because you made a huge mistake at work or do not have the specific qualities needed to do the job. However, if you are fit for the job and have the necessary qualifications but still face adverse action from your boss, you may be dealing with discrimination.

Third, you must establish the adverse employment action. Were you fired? Were you demoted? Are you being paid less than your coworkers? Adverse employment action takes various forms, and you need to show the court what yours looked like.

Finally, you have to demonstrate the connection between the adverse employment action and your pregnancy. Perhaps you are the only employee making a smaller salary, and you are also the only pregnant employee. Maybe you have it on good authority that your boss passed you over for a promotion because they knew you were pregnant.

Available Relief in Pregnancy Discrimination Cases

The relief available in your case depends on what kind of adverse employment action you experienced and the nature of your damages. Considering salary is a big issue in many pregnancy discrimination cases, lost income is often a big part of a plaintiff’s damages.

Perhaps you realized you were being paid less because you were pregnant and about to take parental leave from work. In that case, you can claim the difference in your salary and the salary you rightly should have been earning as part of your damages. In cases where the plaintiff realized the adverse employment action after a long history of working, damages for lost income might be very high.

Similarly, if you were denied a promotion that came with a salary bump because you were pregnant or could become pregnant, you can sue for the lost income you would have earned had you been promoted. We can also factor in predictions for how long you would have worked at a higher salary and how much money you would have made over time.

It is possible that you can get reinstated in your job if you were terminated because of your pregnancy, but this is not always possible. In many cases, employers have already replaced the plaintiff by the time the case gets to court. The court will not make the employer fire the new employee so they can rehire the plaintiff. However, the employer might agree in a settlement to find a similar or better position in which to reinstate the plaintiff.

Pregnancy Discrimination and the Americans with Disabilities Act

Pregnancy discrimination cases often overlap with cases involving disabilities or serious medical conditions. For example, a pregnant person might experience preeclampsia and be urged by their doctor to leave their job for bed rest or at least stop working on their feet. While the Pregnancy Discrimination Act covers various adverse employment actions due to an employee’s pregnancy, it does not cover things like accommodations for disabilities related to pregnancy.

Suppose your employer refuses to accommodate your disabilities that were brought on by your pregnancy. In that case, you might have a claim under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, employers are required to provide disabled employees with reasonable accommodations so they can do their job.

Exactly what constitutes a reasonable accommodation depends on your job and the nature of your disability. If your employer refuses to make reasonable accommodations that would allow you to do your job, you might have a claim under the ADA.

When You Should Speak to an Attorney About Pregnancy Discrimination

If you believe you have been negatively affected by pregnancy discrimination, contact an attorney as soon as possible. A lot of people who face pregnancy discrimination do not realize it because they do not believe they fit the description of a victim of discrimination. After all, you do not necessarily have to be pregnant to face pregnancy discrimination. Even so, contacting a lawyer as soon as possible is in your best interest.

Things like emails or digital communications between you and your lawyer are crucial to your case but easily erased. If you were unjustly terminated, your employer might immediately lock you out of your email, blocking you from obtaining the messages and communications needed to prove your case. As such, call a lawyer right away and immediately start gathering evidence.

Call Our Pregnancy Discrimination Lawyers for Help Today

You can arrange for a case evaluation at no cost with our discrimination lawyers at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin by calling (814) 826-3586.


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