Despite the fact that it's illegal to treat workers differently based on their gender, pregnancy discrimination -- a very specific type of gender discrimination -- is still very common in many occupations.
Once upon a time, many workplaces had rules that actually forbid employees from becoming pregnant. It was considered "unseemly" to have a pregnant woman working in some professions and others were considered too risky. Now, the law prevents women from being overtly fired over becoming pregnant, but that doesn't mean that the discrimination has stopped. Here are some of the most common ways that pregnant women are discriminated against on the job:
1. Stereotyping aimed at new mothers
An employer often reveals his or her real attitude toward pregnant women and their commitment to their jobs by way of stereotypical comments. The pregnant employee may hear, "I suppose you'll go on maternity leave and never come back," or "You won't have time to worry about your career after the baby is born." The employee is then treated differently than before she got pregnant and deprived of certain opportunities, like difficult assignments that could lead to career growth or overtime.
2. Sexual harassment aimed at the woman's changing body
There is a type of sexual harassment that seems to be particularly pervasive toward pregnant women. They may hear comments from their employer or co-workers about the size of their breasts or crude comments about the conception of their child, and they are expected to laugh the comments off as jokes.
3. Anger and harassment over the limitations of pregnancy
This is another particular type of discrimination that is aimed solely at pregnant women. They may find themselves treated as if they were purposefully burdening their employer or co-workers by their pregnancy. They may hear comments like, "That belly makes you slow," or "Just because you're pregnant doesn't mean you get to sit around all day," or told to have an abortion.
4. Refusal to make accommodations
This actually violates several different labor laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but that doesn't stop employers from refusing to make even some of the most ordinary accommodations for a pregnant or nursing employee. For example, an employer may refuse to allow extra bathroom breaks to a pregnant woman without a doctor's note or refuse to give the new mother time to pump her breast milk.
Make no mistake, pregnancy discrimination is still problematic, no matter what your career, and it can upend your ability to provide for your family. If you've experienced pregnancy discrimination, a gender discrimination law firm may be able to help you fight back through legal means.