Do pregnant women experience discrimination in the workplace?

Even though pregnancy discrimination has gone down in recent years, there are still examples of women being denied job modifications, fired and harassed.

Even though laws have been put in place to protect pregnant, working Texans, such as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, inequity is still a big problem in the workplace all over the country. Over the course of five years, almost 31,000 charges were filed nationwide with state-level fair employment agencies and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. The recorded pregnancy bias spanned many races, ages and industries, which goes to show any woman in any line of work can suffer from discrimination while pregnant.

Job modifications are denied

During gestation, women often have to change their habits at least a little bit. For example, a woman may need to visit the restroom more frequently than she did pre-pregnancy, which could require leniency in how many bathroom breaks she is allowed. If minor job modifications are allowed to accommodate a nonpregnancy-related disability, but not a pregnancy-related disability, it is considered a form of discrimination. The modifications being denied can vary greatly from one industry to the next, but may include:

  • Bringing a water bottle to work.
  • Being allowed to sit occasionally at a job that normally requires standing.
  • Avoiding lifting heavy objects.
  • Being allowed to take time off near the end of the third trimester.

When women are not able to modify their work environment to make it safe for their growing babies, it can cause major health issues for both mom and child. In some cases, the woman may be forced to quit in order to protect her unborn baby.

Women get fired

Getting fired or discharged from a job because of pregnancy is one of the most frequently cited causes of this type of discrimination. Employers may cite an inability to perform the duties of the job as reason for termination. However, in many cases an expectant employee should be treated the same as one who is temporarily injured or disabled. This means the employee should get a chance to use her vacation time or take unpaid leave as part of a maternity leave rather than get fired.

Environment becomes hostile

Pregnancy discrimination does not always have to be something that is actively done to a woman by the employer. In some cases, the intolerance can be caused by an employer's inactivity. For example, if an employee continually shames a pregnant coworker because of her new size and the employer does nothing to stop it, it can be considered harassment. Harassment can be done at the hands of coworkers, customers, supervisors and upper-management team members.

In Texas, expecting women are protected by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. If any type of discrimination takes place at work, it may be beneficial to talk with a lawyer who specializes in employment law.