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Understand pregnancy discrimination to prevent it at work

In the workplace, there are lots of ways to be discriminated against. Of them, one of the most painful is being discriminated against when you're pregnant.

When a woman is pregnant, the likelihood is that she wants to feel accepted and excited about growing her family. Still, pregnancy is no cake walk, and having an employer who is treating you unfairly can make it even more frustrating.

Treating a woman, either an applicant or employee, in an unfavorable way due to her pregnancy -- because of giving birth, falling ill as a result of giving birth or being pregnant -- is illegal. Pregnancy discrimination is banned thanks to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which bans discrimination when it is part of any aspect of the job, from the hiring process to termination.

Did you know that pregnant women may be considered to be disabled?

Pregnant women who are temporarily unable to perform certain jobs because of pregnancy or giving birth may be considered disabled. As a result, employers are required to treat them in the same way that they'd treat an employee who was disabled.

This means that an employer should provide reasonable accommodations such as:

  • Light duty
  • Disability leave
  • Unpaid leave
  • Alternative assignments

Here's an example of a reasonable accommodation in the workplace. If Sarah is five months pregnant and having trouble standing for an eight hour shift, her employer could offer her a seat (if it's safe to do so) or give her more rest breaks. If that doesn't work, they could offer her disability or unpaid leave until she's able to work normally in the future.

Employers don't have to provide accommodations to employees who are pregnant under all circumstances. If the accommodations would significantly impact the employer in a negative way and cause undue hardship, then the employer may not have to provide those accommodations. If you're not sure if your employer is being reasonable by refusing your requests, then it is important to reach out to your attorney and to speak with your human resources department as soon as possible.

The reality is that pregnancy can be hard on women and working while pregnant is difficult. When possible, others should be willing to make reasonable accommodations as women attempt to remain in the workforce and continue their work until their children are born. By doing this, employers will be seen as being more fair, and women can continue to work and support their families.

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