Six Examples of Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace
Some of These Might Surprise You
According to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, employers are forbidden from discriminating against pregnant employees when it comes to any aspect of their jobs—including hiring and firing, pay, job duties, training, health insurance, and more.
Even so, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that the number of pregnancy discrimination claims increased 50% between 1997 and 2011. And it’s likely this type of discrimination is under-reported.
One thing many people don’t realize is that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act doesn’t just protect pregnant women. It’s also intended to prevent discrimination based on medical conditions caused by pregnancy or childbirth.
In addition, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), some pregnancy-related health conditions may qualify as disabilities. If you are afflicted with one of these, your employer may be required to offer reasonable accommodations for you under the ADA.
Here are some examples of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.
1. Refusing to hire you because you’re pregnant—or plan to become pregnant
Have you ever had a prospective employer ask you about your childbearing plans during an interview? It may be against the law to ask that question.
Employers are generally not allowed to make hiring decisions based on your family status—whether you’re married, have kids, or plan to have them.
But many employers still carry the misperception that pregnant women and parents will not be able to commit fully to a job because of their children. So this question may crop up in interviews—even though it’s forbidden by law.
Employers are allowed to ask you about when and how often you’re available to work, but that’s it.
2. Firing you because you’re pregnant
Some managers fire pregnant employees because they believe the new baby may interfere with their job. Others may do it for seemingly benevolent reasons—such as believing the physical nature of your job will be bad for your health while you’re pregnant.
Either way, this is generally forbidden by federal law.
3. Not giving you a place to pump breast milk
Under the Affordable Care Act, most employers with over 50 employees are required to provide breaks for pregnant and recently-pregnant employees to pump breast milk. The location has to be in a safe, secure, private place—other than a restroom.
Not all employers follow these rules. In the most egregious of cases, they may actively discourage breast milk pumping, including harassing or firing you for doing it.
It’s important to note that smaller employers—those with fewer than 50 employees—may not be required to accommodate pumping, if they can prove it’s an “undue hardship.”
4. Retaliating against you for filing a discrimination claim
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), this is the most typical form of discrimination: the one where you experience another type of discrimination—including pregnancy discrimination; file a report about it, and then suffer repercussions at your job.
These repercussions can vary—ranging from bad performance reviews to firing, demoting, or verbal or physical harassment.
5. Verbal harassment
The occasional offhand comment isn’t illegal—annoying though it may be. But if you’re subjective to negative insults, jokes, intimidation, or comments frequently enough to create a hostile work environment, you may be facing illegal harassment.
These comments may take the form of outright insults and offensive jokes—but it can be less obvious. For instance, if your supervisor frequently makes comments about how your pregnancy is impacting your work, it may constitute harassment.
6. Refusing to provide reasonable accommodations
As we mentioned above, under the ADA, you may be entitled to reasonable accommodations—either for your pregnancy or a health condition related to a current or recent pregnancy.
Your employer is required to offer accommodations to you as they would to other non-pregnant employees with physical constraints.
The employer isn’t required to offer accommodations automatically just because you’re pregnant—you have to file a request. But if you have a doctor’s sign-off and you’re denied or ignored, that may not be legal.
Work with an experienced pregnancy discrimination lawyer in Pennsylvania
The information provided here does not constitute legal advice. It is intended for general purposes only. If you have questions about a specific legal issue, you should speak to an attorney.