Pregnancy discrimination commonly occurs in the workplace even though it is illegal under federal and California law. If you are pregnant and you are an employee, California is a good place to be. Federal laws protect discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace and California law offers even more protections for pregnant employees.
Under California law, workplaces with five or more employees, agents of covered employees, and state or government agencies are generally subject to California’s pregnancy discrimination laws. The California Fair Employment & Housing Act prohibits discrimination against any employee because of his or her sex and goes on to define “sex” as including pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and medical conditions related to pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding.
In California, if a pregnant employee develops disabilities due to pregnancy, an employer should provide reasonable accommodations for the employee. The law is not exactly defined as to what reasonable accommodations are, but if an employer would make reasonable accommodations for another employee who had a temporary disability, a pregnant employee should be treated the same way.
Let’s look at an example: An employee was in a car accident and couldn’t lift heavy items for several months while he recovered from his injuries (lifting heavy items was a regular part of his job), so his employer temporarily reassigned him to a position where he could work without having to lift heavy items. In the same scenario, if a pregnant employee subsequently notified her employer that due to her pregnancy, she wasn’t able to lift heavy items, her employer would need to make similar reasonable accommodations for the pregnant employee. If the employer failed to make similar reasonable accommodations for the pregnant employee, she may have a pregnancy discrimination claim.
Common Types of Pregnancy Discrimination
Recently, a case of pregnancy discrimination went viral when a pregnant restaurant employee in Washington received a text message from her manager firing her from her job stating, in part:
“It’s not a good time for us to have someone who is leaving for maternity leave in several months anyway. You also failed to tell me this during our interview.”
Rarely is pregnancy discrimination so blatant in the workplace where an employer actually states (in writing, no less!) that the employee is being fired for being pregnant. And in case you are wondering: No, in an interview (or anytime thereafter) you do not have to tell a potential employer that you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. So what are some common scenarios of workplace pregnancy discrimination? See the list below for some examples:
- An employer learns in an interview that the potential employee is pregnant and decides not to hire the potential employee because of the pregnancy.
- An employer fires demote or do not promote an employee because the employee is pregnant.
- An employer refuses to provide reasonable accommodations for a pregnancy disability even though that employer has provided reasonable accommodations for other employees’ temporary disabilities.
- An employer does not allow a pregnant employee legally afforded leave related to pregnancy.
- A pregnant employee is mocked or harassed in the workplace for being pregnant.
- A person is not hired, not promoted, fired, or demoted because an employer thinks the person may become pregnant.
These are only a few of the most common pregnancy discrimination scenarios and there are many other workplace pregnancy discrimination occurrences that are not listed here. If you believe that you may have been discriminated against due to pregnancy, contact our Riverside workplace discrimination attorney, at JML Law, to schedule a consultation and explore your legal options. No one should be discriminated against for any reason related to pregnancy.