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Knowing Your Workplace Rights If You're Pregnant

In 1978, Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which made it illegal for employers to discriminate against an employee if she became pregnant. This means that employees cannot use terminations, wage or hour cuts, medical leave denials, and more to penalize a woman just because of her pregnancy. And yet, in 2013, more than 5,000 women filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that cited pregnancy discrimination at work, most often including unexpected termination.

In order to stop pregnancy discrimination across America, it is important that a woman’s rights when pregnant and employed become common knowledge. We have comprised a list of the most vital aspects of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. If you are facing employment discrimination after becoming pregnant, be sure to review it. Or, if you know you need legal help and possibly a lawsuit, contact Buckley Beal LLP and talk to our Atlanta employment law attorneys today.

A woman’s rights while pregnant and employed include:

  • No termination: A woman cannot be fired solely for becoming pregnant. Some employers state that they are concerns about the woman’s own health, thinking she needs to stay at home, rather than coming into the workplace. This decision is not up to employers, but rather a woman and her physician.
  • Hiring equality: Pregnancy cannot also be a barring reason for finding employment, nor can the potential of future pregnancy. If a job interviewer starts asking questions about whether or not a woman plans on starting a family with her husband, for example, it could be indicative of an illegal probing question based in pregnancy discrimination.
  • Privacy for pumping: Obamacare added a legal provision that states lactating mothers must be provided reasonable time and a private space to pump breast milk for up to one year after giving birth. The private location must not be a restroom, either. Small companies with minimal space may be an exception.
  • Reasonable accommodations: Pregnant women and those who have recently given birth should be given reasonable accommodations to improve their comfort, so long as the company isn’t put under undue hardship. Accommodations could include chairs for positions that usually involve standing, later shifts if morning sickness is a repeated issue, and so on. Light-duty assignments may be requested as well with an accompanying doctor’s note.
  • Work if you want: Going back to employers saying they are worried about a woman’s health while she is pregnant, some may try to force a pregnant woman or new mother to take time off or to change positions. This behavior is prohibited. If a woman wants to take a leave-of-absence or alter her work duties, it must be her decision and compliance that makes it happen.
  • Abortion consideration: All the same protections that a pregnant woman and new mother have in the workplace also apply to women considering an abortion, or who have had one recently.
  • Nonmedical leave for men: This one is clearly different from all the rest on this list but it is relevant. If a company offers nonmedical leave to women, such as the need to spend time and bond with her newborn, it must also offer the same for new fathers.
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