An employer may not use a woman’s pregnancy or intention to become pregnant as a reason to make any decisions about her employment. Expectant mothers who have experienced pregnancy discrimination at work have the right to file a lawsuit against their employer.

Call a pregnancy discrimination lawyer in Charlotte at Gibbons Leis, PLLC for help exercising your rights: 704-612-0038. We help women hold employers accountable for discriminating against them for their pregnancy, allowing them to recover damages and reach other resolutions, such as retaining employment.

What is pregnancy discrimination?

Pregnancy discrimination occurs when a woman receives mistreatment in the workplace based on her pregnancy or pregnancy-related medical conditions.

Some common examples of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace include:

  • Employer asking if employee or applicant is pregnant or intends to become pregnant
  • Employer making a hiring decision based on stereotypic assumption of pregnancy
  • Employer allowing or participating in pregnancy-related harassment (e.g., stomach rubbing, frequent jokes or inappropriate comments, etc.)
  • Employer failing to accommodate a pregnant employee
  • Employer compelling an employee to take leave because of her pregnancy
  • Employer refusing to offer an employee maternity leave

Pregnancy Discrimination Laws

There are numerous federal laws in place to protect pregnant women from discrimination, including the following:

Pregnancy Discrimination Act

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) which classifies discrimination relating to pregnancy as a form of sex discrimination.

The PDA prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from allowing a woman’s pregnancy to negatively affect any terms or conditions of employment including:

  • Hiring
  • Firing
  • Job assignments
  • Promotions
  • Fringe benefits (e.g., leave, health insurance)

Americans with Disabilities Act

While pregnancy is not a disability, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does cover some pregnancy-related conditions (e.g., preeclampsia, gestational diabetes).

Family and Medical Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees of covered employers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to give birth or care for a newborn.

To be an eligible employee, you must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months, have worked at least 1,250 hours over the last year, and work within 75 miles of a location at which your employer employs at least 50 people.

What reasonable accommodations must employers make for pregnant women?

If pregnancy or childbirth-related health conditions render a woman unable to do her job or parts of her job, the employer must, by law, provide the following:

  • Light duty: This usually means there is a restriction on the employee’s activity (e.g., cannot lift more than 10 pounds at a time).
  • Leave: FMLA requires certain employers to allow covered pregnant women 12 weeks unpaid leave
  • Job restructuring: Employers may have to reasonably accommodate pregnant women by assigning them to other job assignments
  • Modification of work schedules: Employers may have to modify a pregnant woman’s schedule depending on her medical needs

Your employer will of course argue that it either did take these accommodations, was unable to make these accommodations, and/or that its actions were unrelated to your pregnancy. We must prove that your employer did not take reasonable steps to accommodate your pregnancy and related needs, and that its actions were related to your pregnancy.

Pregnant Women Who Have Been Mistreated at Work Have Legal Options

If you believe your employer has discriminated against you because you are pregnant or intend to become pregnant, you may be able to file a discrimination suit. In order to have a successful discrimination case, you will need direct or circumstantial evidence of the pregnancy discrimination you experienced.

Direct Evidence of Discrimination

Direct evidence includes an admission from your employer saying that your pregnancy impacted his or her decision to demote, fire, or otherwise penalize you. This might include company emails or correspondence, or via testimony from others within your workplace. Employers will typically not admit to any wrongdoing, but it can happen in certain situations.

Circumstantial Evidence of Discrimination

Your best bet is to present evidence that strongly implies discrimination. You may be able to prove that:

  • Your employer did not follow standard protocol with regards to your termination.
  • The timing of your termination or demotion was suspicious.
  • The reasons your employer gave for your termination are illegitimate or insufficient.
  • Your employer replaced you with someone not in your protected class (e.g., non-pregnant woman, a man)
  • There is a pattern of discrimination against pregnant employees at your company.

Finding circumstantial evidence of sex discrimination requires an in-depth investigation into your employer’s business practices. We use our two decades of experience and knowledge of employment law to uncover any evidence of discrimination by your employer.

Resolutions to Pregnancy Discrimination Cases

Those who have experienced pregnancy discrimination in the workplace can recover numerous remedies including:

  • Back pay: Lost wages due to the discrimination
  • Hiring: If your employer refused to hire you because you were pregnant, your lawsuit may stipulate that the employer must hire you.
  • Front pay: Future wage loss due to the discrimination
  • Reinstatement: A pregnant employee who was the victim of wrongful termination may be able to get her old position back.
  • Attorneys’ fees
  • Court costs

Pregnant women have the right to fair job treatment. Phil Gibbons has assisted hundreds of employees who have faced discrimination in the workplace. If you need assistance handling your pregnancy discrimination case, contact Gibbons Leis, PLLC today: 704-612-0038.