Developments in Treatment of Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace

Discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace can take many forms. In some cases, women may be passed over for promotion or refused accommodations simply due to their physical condition. Employers may even fire pregnant women if they complain about adverse treatment. Understanding the various aspects of discrimination against women who become pregnant can help to raise awareness for this serious issue in the working world.

Failure to Accommodate the Physical Needs of Pregnant Women

A lack of understanding regarding the needs and physical limitations of women who are pregnant can lead to real work hazards for these individuals. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 made it illegal to treat pregnant women differently than those who were unable to perform specific duties for other reasons. Women who report difficulties with their working conditions, however, are often ignored or even fired by their employers.

In general, on the federal and New York State level, if a company offers broad accommodations for those with disabilities, they must also provide similar benefits and accommodations for women who are pregnant. Transferring from a position that requires heavy lifting to a light-duty job, for example, is a required accommodation if a pregnant woman requests it. Failure to do so could result in legal liability for any injuries or other issues experienced by pregnant women on the job.

Fortunately, for New York City workers who require accommodations for pregnancy, the New York City Human Rights Law offers more expansive protections than the Federal and State counterparty, whereby employers are required to engage in active discussions regarding these requests and provide reasonable accommodations when not unduly burdensome on the company’s operations.

Trapped on the Pregnancy Plateau

One of the most insidious forms of discrimination against pregnant women is the tendency for companies to sideline these employees and to promote other individuals, usually male, to positions of responsibility within corporate organizations. Some companies and managers are forthright about the issue, commenting that women are put on the “mommy track” while men are not similarly penalized.

Proving cases of discrimination in which the woman is passed over for promotion or not included in the primary functions of the company can be difficult. As with any subjective decision, determining the real factors at play in hiring and firing decisions may not be a simple task. In corporate America, however, it is clear that women are getting the short end of the stick regarding compensation and promotions to the top levels of their companies. This phenomenon is especially real for women who choose to have children as well as careers.

Complaints on the Rise

An analysis of available wage information performed by a sociologist at the University of Massachusetts indicated that women lost an average of four percent from their hourly wages for every child they brought into the world. By contrast, the hourly wages earned by men increased by six percent after becoming fathers. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), claims of pregnancy discrimination have been growing steadily for the last 20 years. In 2017, the EEOC received 3,184 complaints alleging pregnancy discrimination.

Moreover, many women fail to report these issues, however, because of lack of information regarding the legal protections available to them or because of a fear of retaliation from their employers. In some instances, they may be worried that they cannot afford an attorney to take on their case. Women who are still employed by larger corporations may also be concerned about the extensive legal resources available to their company and the adverse effects that whistleblowing could potentially have on their future careers at their current employer or elsewhere.

We Are Here to Help

The attorneys at Risman & Risman can help you ascertain whether you have experienced pregnancy discrimination or any other type of discrimination in the workplace. We can provide you with zealous and assertive representation, ensure that your rights are fully enforced and protected, and provide you with added confidence in and out of Court. Call us today at 212-233-6400 to schedule your free initial consultation. At Risman & Risman, we are committed to working for you.

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