Let the Mother Beware: Pregnancy in the Workplace

Seal of the United States Equal Employment Opp...
Seal of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is somewhat hard to believe in this day and age that women experiencing pregnancy in the workplace are still being subjected to workplace policies that put their livelihood in jeopardy. Despite federal laws dating back to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and several updates and addendums, there are still employers in the United States that have written policies that terminate workers due to pregnancy, regardless of the ability to perform that job’s duties and the overall physical capabilities of the workers.
A recent case in point was brought by the EEOC against a Baytown, Texas, restaurant chain called Bayou City Wings. Acting on behalf of a former employee named Maryann Castillo and eight other dismissed workers, the EEOC claimed that Bayou City Wings, and its parent company, JC Wings Enterprises, LLC, operated with a discriminatory policy against their workers who were experiencing pregnancy in the workplace. Their written policy mandated laying off workers after their third month of pregnancy, regardless of the employees’ desire and ability to stay on the job. In this case, Castillo was not experiencing any difficulties performing her job duties and had received approval from her doctor to work up to her 36th week of pregnancy.
Despite the honorable desire of the employer to take responsibility for the well-being of the unborn babies in these cases, it is important to note that the law and previous Supreme Court cases have determined that it is not the responsibility of employers to make decisions to protect the well-being of the unborn children of their employees, but rather the sole responsibility of the mothers involved. For employers, this could be a release of guilt if a mother’s decision to work jeopardizes her unborn child. The true benefit for this is that the women carrying their children should be able to have control over what they can or cannot do, without the arbitrary decisions of companies that are driven by the bottom line.
The EEOC cannot be the only protector of these cases of injustice and discrimination in the workplace. It is important for all employees, and especially women, to know their rights in a situation where they are facing a pregnancy in the workplace. Under the laws of this country, mothers-to-be are protected and have the law on their side. The Law offices of Valli, Kane, and Vagnini are specially equipped to help any victim of this or any other kind of discrimination in the workplace. Contact them for a free consultation to make sure that your rights are protected.

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Employment Law and Pregnancy Discrimination

Telling Your Employer About Your Pregnancy
pregnancy in the workplaceWhen you are pregnant, you may wonder when and how you are going to tell your employer. The fact is under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and other laws against discrimination, you do not have to tell your employer at all. If you can perform your work and do it well, and do not need special accommodations, your pregnancy is legally irrelevant.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits employers with more than 15 employees from discriminating against pregnant employees.It also includes local and state government employees, federal employees, employment agency employees and labor organization employees no matter how many employees they have.
Pregnancy Discrimination and Benefits Employers must provide the same benefits to all their employees whether they are pregnant or not. This includes health insurance, retirement and disability benefits. Medical conditions related to pregnancy must be covered identically to other medical conditions.Pregnancy Discrimination and Disability If a pregnant woman can do her job for a while due to a medical condition related to her pregnancy or childbirth, the employer must treat it like any other temporarily disabled employee. This means that the employer must make accommodations or provide disability leave.More Rules on Pregnancy Discrimination

  • A potential employer may not ask a pregnant job candidate any questions they would not ask a candidate that was not pregnant.
  • An employer may not discriminate against an employee who might get pregnant.
  • An employer may not forbid a pregnant employee from doing a job for which she is fit and she wants to do.
  • Jobs must be held open for pregnancy related absence for the same amount of time as for other sickness and disability.
  • Employers cannot discriminate against an employee who has had an abortion or is considering getting an abortion.
  • Female spouses of male employees must be provided the same level of medical benefits than the male spouses of female employees.
  • Single women must be provided the same pregnancy related benefits as married women.
  • Seniority, vacation, raises, promotions and other accrued benefits for pregnant women must be granted in the same way as those on leave for non-pregnancy reasons.

If you believe you may have been a victim of pregnancy discrimination due to pregnancy, childbirth or a pregnancy related medical condition, you should consult with an employment attorney as soon as possible. A reputable employment discrimination lawyer will listen to your situation and educate you on the pregnancy discrimination laws. If you have been a victim of pregnancy discrimination  an experienced employment attorney can help you recover any damages you have incurred.

Understanding Pregnancy Discrimination and Your Rights as an Expecting Mother

Women shouldn’t
have to fear for their jobs when starting a family.  But, we hear about pregnancy discrimination in the workplace all the time.  Companies frequently do not abide by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 or the U.S. Department of Labor’s Family Medical Leave Act.  Women are too often subject to unlawful actions made by employers because of pregnancy.
There are many different forms of pregnancy discrimination.  The majority include: reassignment to a department out of your career path or a lower paying position, refusal of medical health care benefits that are available to other employees, or cutting your hours and pay during pregnancy.
Here are some things you should know about the laws protecting women, and the action you should take if you believe you have been discriminated against.
U.S. Department of Labor’s Family Medical Leave Act
Under this act, employers with 50 or more employees must give up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to employees that have worked for the company for at least 12 months and have clocked a minimum of 1,250 hours of service.  The FMLA regulates leave of absences that are necessary for one of the following reasons:

  • Childbirth and infant care of the employee’s newborn
  • Adoption or foster care placement with the employee
  • A serious health condition of an immediate family member that requires care
  • A serious health condition of the employee

Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 provides guidelines that employees and employers must follow during pregnancy to ensure that there are no discriminatory actions.

  • An employer cannot refuse to hire you because of your pregnancy as long as you can complete the functions of the job
  • If you are temporarily incapable of completing the tasks of your job because of your pregnancy, your employer must modify tasks and assignments (as done with other temporarily disabled employees).
  • You must be permitted to work as long as you can complete the functions of your job.
  • If you are provided with health insurance by your employer, the insurance must cover pregnancy-related expenses as it would for other medical conditions
  • When crediting seniority, vacation time, pay increases or other benefits, you must be treated the same as other temporarily disabled employees.

If you feel you have been discriminated against, take these steps:

  • Document any discriminatory conversations or occurrences.  Detail the time and place, as well as participants and witnesses.
  • Continue to perform your tasks and assignments, but start documenting how well you are performing.
  • Compile a record of previous performance reviews to keep as evidence.
  • Consider contacting your human resources department to file a complaint, and document your complaint within your own files.
  • Contact an attorney to discuss your options

To prove you have been discriminated against, you must fit this criteria:

  • Be a member of a protected class (as a woman, you are protected)
  • Meet the expectations of your job and your performance was up to par with your employer’s demands (this can be proven with your performance reviews, raises, promotions and your own documentation of such material)
  • Be fired, demoted, passed over for a promotion, not hired for a position, or suffered any other form of adverse action.
  • Be treated differently or less favorably than other employees with similar circumstances who were not a member of a protected class.

In court, your employer must provide a legitimate and non-discriminatory reason for the adverse action.   You must show that the employer’s reason is a pre-text (a false reason used to conceal the discriminatory action).  If you are able to prove their rationale is pre-textual, you have a chance of winning in front of a judge or jury.
Contact an attorney to discuss your circumstances and further explore your legal options.