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Understanding discrimination against pregnant workers

pregnant employee talking to forklift driver

Discrimination because of pregnancy can cause harm to victims and contribute to hostility in the workplace. All employees, regardless of their status, should have access to a safe and respectful environment at work.

When people understand the problem that pregnancy discrimination creates, they can more effectively prevent it. Although pregnancy is not covered by workers compensation, workplace accidents suffered by pregnant women resulting in injury, miscarriage or still birth can be. Likewise, discriminatory practices causing psychological trauma may entitle you to file a workers compensation claim.

Recognizing discrimination

Discrimination takes on many forms that can impact hiring practices and employee treatment. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, pregnancy discrimination includes past pregnancies, current pregnancies, potential pregnancies and medical complications related to pregnancy. Some examples may include the following:

  • Lack of accommodations for nursing mothers
  • Discrimination against a pregnant job applicant
  • Refusal to promote or compensate a pregnant worker
  • Inflexibility for a pregnant worker to attend medical appointments

Protecting rights

Government entities such as the EEOC and others have the responsibility of enforcing fair treatment of vulnerable groups. The State of California, Department of Fair Employment and Housing shares some of the rights of pregnant workers including the right of transferal to a less demanding or less hazardous position during pregnancy.

Other rights include accommodation for medical needs, allowance for modified duties and access to time off for post-birth recovery. Lactating mothers should also have the option to safely and privately pump in the workplace.

Raising awareness

Pregnancy discrimination can interfere with victims’ careers, slow productivity and lower morale. For companies, discriminatory behavior can disrupt production, create hostility and jeopardize culture.

Everyone deserves to work peaceably and safely, including pregnant workers. Employers’ diligence in promoting fairness can minimize the chances of discriminatory behavior happening.

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