Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination in the Workplace: What You Should Know

Pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace is an unlawful practice where employers treat employees or job applicants unfavorably due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. This form of discrimination manifests in various ways, some subtle and others glaringly obvious.

One common example of this discrimination is when an employer refuses to hire a pregnant applicant despite her qualifications out of concern that she will soon need time off for childbirth and recovery. This clearly violates the law, as making employment decisions based on pregnancy is illegal.

Another example is when an employer demotes, reduces the hours, or changes the job duties of a pregnant employee without her consent because they believe she cannot perform her job duties due to her condition. These actions violate her rights unless the pregnancy truly prevents the employee from fulfilling her job responsibilities.

A third violation occurs when a pregnant employee is denied the same or similar job upon returning from a pregnancy-related leave when she is ready and able to work. This breaches the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which guarantees certain employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year.

What Employers Cannot Do?

There are many things employers cannot do about pregnancy and maternity rights at work. Here are some of the most common:

  • Refuse to hire a woman because she is pregnant or has a pregnancy-related condition.
  • Fire or demote a woman because of her pregnancy.
  • Deny a pregnant woman training or promotion opportunities.
  • Stop health insurance coverage for pregnancy-related conditions.
  • Prevent a pregnant woman from returning to the same or equivalent job after maternity leave.
  • Force a pregnant woman to take leave as long as she can perform her job.
  • Deny reasonable accommodations for pregnancy-related disabilities unless it causes undue hardship.
  • Retaliate against an employee for asserting rights under the PDA.
  • Deny time off or reasonable breaks for pregnant employees who need them.
  • Refuse to provide modified tasks or alternative assignments to a pregnant employee temporarily unable to perform her regular job.

Recourse for Employees

Employees who feel their rights have been violated can file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC will investigate the complaint, and if it finds evidence of discrimination, it may sue the employer on the employee’s behalf. The employee also has the right to file a lawsuit directly in court.

Employees who suffer pregnancy discrimination can recover remedies such as back pay, hiring, promotion, reinstatement, front pay, compensatory damages (emotional pain and suffering), punitive damages (damages to punish the employer), and other actions that will make an individual “whole” (in the condition she would have been but for the discrimination).

Speak With Our South Jersey Employment Lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC

Workplace pregnancy and maternity discrimination unfortunately happens. If your rights have been violated, speak with our South Jersey employment lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC. Call us at 856-235-7075 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Mount Laurel and Atlantic City, New Jersey, we serve clients in South Jersey, including Cherry Hill, Burlington County, and Camden County.