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7 Examples of Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace

7 Examples of Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace

7 Examples of Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace

7 Examples of Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace

by Steven I. Azizi 16/09/2021

The 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) in the United States forbids employers from discriminating against pregnant employees in the workplace. The PDA protects pregnant workers from being discriminated against in workplaces with more than 15 workers. Similarly, in the European Union, the Pregnant Workers Directive (PWD) 92/85 protects the rights of women workers during and after pregnancy.

Employers cannot discriminate on the basis of (past, current, or future) pregnancy, childbirth, or a related health condition in any aspect related to pregnant workers’ jobs, including recruitment & dismissal, training, duties, salary, promotion, health insurance, etc. Yes, the PDA in the United States doesn’t just protect pregnant women. It also forbids discrimination on the basis of medical conditions caused by childbirth or pregnancy.

The PDA has been a federal law for over four decades now. Unfortunately, cases of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace continue to pour in. According to reports published by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the total number of pregnancy discrimination claims in the United States increased sharply by 65% during 1992-2007 and 50% during 1997-2011. In 2016, the commission reported having received more than three thousand pregnancy discrimination charges.

Such discrimination in the workplace is often under-reported because most women do not understand what constitutes pregnancy discrimination and how to fight it with the help of a pregnancy discrimination attorney. Here in this post, we will look at seven most common examples of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace: 



1. Refusing to hire someone because they are pregnant – or plan to start a family

When a job applicant is pregnant or intends to become pregnant, a company cannot refuse to hire them for such reasons. The PDA also forbids hiring managers from asking job applicants about their childbearing plans.  

Job applicants, however, can ask about the company’s health insurance coverage, maternity leave benefits, and short-term disability coverage. In general, employers cannot make hiring decisions based on whether you are single, married, divorced, have kids, or plan to get pregnant.

Many companies try to justify such discrimination by saying they are only looking to hire someone who can continue working without any interruptions.

Hiring managers may have numerous such biased assumptions about how a female worker will perform during her pregnancy or weeks following childbirth. Hiring decisions made on the basis of such assumptions are illegal.



2. Not Providing Reasonable Accommodations


The employer is required by law to provide reasonable accommodation if a woman is experiencing pregnancy-related complications. If a worker is unable to perform specific tasks due to a medical condition or impairment during pregnancy or after childbirth, employers are bound by law to make reasonable accommodations.

Some common examples of reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees are:

  • Temporarily assigning a light-duty assignment to a pregnant worker who is experiencing back pain
  • Modifying a pregnant employee’s work schedule because she experiences severe morning sickness
  • Moving a pregnant worker’s workstation closer to the restroom
  • Providing a stool or chair at a pregnant worker’s workstation so that she doesn’t have to stand on her feet all the time

In most cases, pregnant workers need to submit a doctor’s note/certificate. Once the medical condition has been documented, employers need to make necessary accommodations.



3. Not Providing a Private Place to Pump Breast Milk 

In the US, companies with at least 50 employees are bound by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – earlier known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – to provide a safe and private place, other than restrooms, to women employees who have been recently pregnant to pump breast milk.

The PDA also considers lactation as a medical condition associated with pregnancy. So, employers cannot discriminate against someone expressing breast milk in the workplace.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) also offers significant protection to nursing mothers. This act makes it mandatory for employers to provide reasonable break time during work shifts to recently-pregnant workers (up to one year after childbirth) to pump breast milk.  However, companies are not required by law to compensate such workers for this time.

Pregnant and recently pregnant workers are offered similar protections in the European Union through Directive 92/85 EEC.



4. Verbal Harassment


Occasional annoying comments in the workplace aren’t illegal. But, if you are subject to jokes, insults, or negative comments that amount to creating a hostile work environment, you may be at the receiving end of ‘illegal’ harassment in the workplace.

Negative comments about how pregnancy is affecting your performance may also constitute illegal harassment.

When in doubt, consider talking to an experienced lawyer specializing in pregnancy discrimination claims.



5. Firing Someone Because They Are Pregnant


Some companies terminate employment contracts of pregnant women. They tend to assume that a pregnant worker wouldn’t be able to complete her tasks or the new baby would interfere with an employee’s work routine.

Some employers may even have the notion that a particular job (e.g. lifting heavy objects in a warehouse) is not suitable for a pregnant woman.  

Employers cannot discriminate like this even if they wholeheartedly believe that the decision is in the best interest of the pregnant worker. It is up to the employee or her physician to make a decision on what’s best for her.



6. Not Considering a Pregnant Employee for Promotion


Some people like to think that a woman won’t be fully committed to a senior position once she has had a child. Regardless of the kind of stereotypes they want to hold on to in the 21st century, employers cannot refuse to promote an employee just because she recently gave birth to a child.

It is also illegal to ask workers to take some time off due to past or current pregnancy. Reassigning a worker during pregnancy or after childbirth may also be illegal if it’s against their wishes.



7. Retaliation for Filing a Discrimination Claim


Retaliation against an employee just because she filed a pregnancy discrimination claim, is among the most common forms of discrimination according to the EEOC.

After an employee files a discrimination charge, she may start getting poor performance reviews. Some companies may even fire, demote or verbally harass the employee.

Such retaliation against pregnant or recently-pregnant employees is illegal. Documenting such incidents or collecting relevant evidence can help you strengthen your case against the employer. 

by Steven I. Azizi 16/09/2021

Steven is the Senior Partner and co-founder of Miracle Mile Law Group. Steven always knew his calling involved helping ordinary people, not corporations, so he started Miracle Mile Law Group, where he exclusively represents employees in claims against their employers.

Steven A. Izizi, Esq.

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6 Great Things Employers Can Do To Improve Gender Equality

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6 Great Things Employers Can Do To Improve Gender Equality

6 Great Things Employers Can Do To Improve Gender Equality

by Frank Feldman 23/01/2020

Gender equality is achieved when both men and women have access to the same set of opportunities and resources, are hired, evaluated or promoted based on the same criteria, and aren’t discriminated against due to their gender. While significant progress has been made in improving gender equality in workplaces around the globe, a lot more needs to be done. Employers can lead the way. Here are six great things employers can do to improve gender equality:


1. Have More Women Take Up Leadership Roles


Women hold less than 50% of leadership positions in every industry analyzed by the researchers at the World Economic Forum in the year 2017.  The report titled The Global Gender Gap Report 2017 highlighted that representation of women in leadership roles drops to an abysmal 20% in some sectors such as energy, mining, manufacturing, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

If your company does not have many women in senior roles, it is perhaps time to reevaluate your hiring criteria. Find out if the human resources department has intentionally or unintentionally erected some barriers that keep women from applying or qualifying for senior positions advertised by your company.   

When more women take up leadership roles in an organization and get involved in the decision-making process, it eventually helps improve gender equality in the workplace. Women workers also feel motivated to join such organizations due to increased opportunities in mentorship and professional growth.


2. Proactive Approach to Prevent Gender Discrimination in the Workplace


Employers need to understand what constitutes workplace gender discrimination and how they can stop it. Often, workplace gender discrimination (including unlawful sexual harassment) goes unreported. Even the United States Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) that reportedly received around 90,000 complaints against workplace harassment (including sexual harassment) in the year 2015 noted that the numbers do not reflect the ground reality as the vast majority of victims choose not to file a complaint.

Employers should actively promote the fact that any kind of gender discrimination in the workplace will not be tolerated. Instituting a policy to promote gender equality in the workplace is the first step in this direction. The policy should clearly define:  

  • What constitutes workplace gender discrimination?
  • How can victims report gender discrimination to supervisors or the HR department in an easy and confidential manner?
  • How a supervisor or manager should deal with an employee indulging in gender discrimination?
  • How does the employer or the management deal with an employee found guilty of discriminating against a person due to his or her gender?

Employers should be unambiguous in describing the consequences arising from sexual harassment or gender discrimination in the workplace.

Ignoring or mishandling complaints of gender discrimination by the human resources department, supervisors or managers is a bad idea. This practice not only defeats an employer’s intention to promote gender equality but also sends out the message that a company condones gender discrimination.


3. Train Managers on How to Improve Gender Equality in the Workplace


Both men and women in senior positions in a company should be trained on how to achieve gender equality. For starters, they need to know how employees, including managers and those responsible for recruiting new workers, indulge in subtle or obvious gender discrimination. For instance, a hiring manager may continually prefer female or male candidates over other genders.

Often, a large number of employees are not even aware of gender stereotypes that lead to (unintentional) discriminatory behavior.  Managers or supervisors can play a crucial role in improving gender equality if they are trained on how to identify the signs of gender discrimination or workplace sexual harassment and are well aware of the methods on how to tackle such issues. They can further help their subordinates on how to identify and remove their unconscious biases.

Managers or supervisors should know how to:

  • Always use ‘inclusive’ language or tone when addressing or interacting with workers
  • Call it out when men or women are selectively excluded
  • Call-out inappropriate comments, behavior or actions by junior workers or colleagues
  • Lead by example
  • Appreciate both men and women for their contributions
  • Challenge common (gender) stereotypes and biases

Instituting and implanting a policy focused on promoting workplace gender equality cannot deliver results if the people in leadership roles aren’t prepared to educate themselves and their subordinates on the subject.


4. Remove Gender Pay Gap


Employers should make sure that male and female employees who take up an identical set of responsibilities at work are offered the same salary and benefits.

In the United States, a male worker earns 1 dollar against 79 cents earned by a female worker as per a report published by the Senate Joint Economic Committee Democratic Staff. Great progress has been made in improving gender pay parity in the last two decades but a lot remains to be done; according to Women’s Policy Research, 100% gender pay parity cannot be achieved until the year 2059.

One of the best ways employers can remove gender pay-gap is to introduce a culture of transparency. When a bunch of candidates is considered for a vacant position, for instance, hiring managers should have a well-defined salary structure to adhere to, regardless of whether they hire a male or female candidate. Companies that are completely transparent about the fact that they pay equal wages to workers taking up specific roles, send out a strong message that they care about eliminating gender-biases in the workplace.


5. Gender-Neutral Hiring Practices

Often, employers aren’t aware of the reasons why they do not have gender-diversity in their workplaces. Therefore, it is important that employers evaluate their hiring practices and make them gender-neutral. Here are some standard guidelines:

  • When a company advertises a vacant position, it should be mindful of using gender-neutral language in advertisements and notifications.
  • The HR staff responsible for reviewing resumes should not be aware of the gender of a candidate.
  • Each candidate appearing for an interview for a specific position should be asked the same set of questions.
  • Candidate selection procedures should be standardized in order to eliminate gender-bias.
  • Hiring managers should not stereotype tasks, responsibilities or roles. Candidates hired for a position should be assigned duties as per their competencies and not based on their gender.


6. Equal Growth Opportunities


Employers should ensure that both men and women are offered the same set of opportunities as far as mentorship, training, promotion, and education are concerned. A quick organization-wide employee data analysis can help employers identify potential gaps in providing equal growth opportunities to all their workers.


Disclaimer: This is not legal information. No attorney-client privileges are substantiated from this article.  


by Frank Feldman 23/01/2020

Frank Feldman is PR/Media Manager at Stephen Danz & Associates, one of the largest law firms committed solely to representing employees in their disputes with employers in California.


Talentese can help you build a truly diverse Team, where everybody will fit with your company values, culture and purpose.

Talentese can help you build a truly diverse Team, where everybody will fit with your company values, culture and purpose.

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