For a family expecting a new baby, having a child should be a joyous and celebrated event. However, some pregnant women feel hesitant to announce their news to their employer. Despite laws against discrimination, some employers continue to punish pregnant employees. In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of pregnancy-related discrimination claims.
Discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace is not a new concept and is part of the employment discrimination women have always had to deal with. Since 1978, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) has prohibited discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions.
Despite the legal protections, many employers continue to discriminate against pregnant employees, or employees they think will become pregnant. Some employers ask questions during an interview which are intended to determine if the employee has or will have children in the future. Other employers refuse to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers, which is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), pregnancy discrimination is defined as “treating a woman unfavorably because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.” The PDA forbids discrimination in any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignment, promotions, layoffs, training, fringe benefits, and other terms or conditions of employment.
Since 2015, Illinois has enacted state laws that offer similar protections for pregnant workers. The Pregnancy Fairness Law established protections for pregnant employees who require minor adjustments to their regular job duties. If employers refuse, they must show that such an accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the business.
According to the National Women's Law Center, many low-wage female workers have physically demanding jobs that require heavy lifting and standing for long periods of time. Without accommodations, it can be difficult for these employees to continue working while pregnant. For families where the woman is the primary wage-earner, the threat of losing their job is also a threat to the family's financial stability.
After a class action discrimination suit and months of negotiations, Walmart announced they would provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. Prior to the change, the nation's largest employer of women only allowed minor job adjustments, and workers were not eligible for reassignments or transfers of non-essential job duties.
Many employers remain unaware of the legal protections afforded pregnant women, or they do not take the laws seriously. Smaller companies may not be up to date on what they are required to do for pregnant employees who need reasonable accommodations to do their regular jobs. Making accommodations may not only be a legal requirement, it is also a way to retain good employees.
If you believe your supervisor or employer has discriminated against you because you were pregnant, your employer may be violating federal and state human rights laws. Illinois employees who are victims of employment discrimination should speak with an experienced attorney who understands Illinois and federal employment discrimination law. At Benassi & Benassi, we are committed to getting our clients and their families the justice they deserve.