Pregnancy Discrimination

Workers Who are Pregnant are Protected

It is no longer rare for employers to have to manage accommodations for their employees' pregnancies—according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 85 percent of women in the workforce will become mothers during their careers. Unfortunately, it is still common for employers to treat pregnant employees as a burden. Many women who become pregnant while working find that their employer begins to treat them differently as a result of their pregnancy, or that they have lost out on opportunities they would originally have benefited from. This type of discrimination was made illegal by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, which prohibited companies with more than 15 employees from discriminating against workers due to pregnancy, childbirth, or any related medical conditions. Employers cannot use an employee's pregnancy to justify any employment-related decisions such as hiring or promotions.

Common Examples of Pregnancy Discrimination

Both federal law and Texas law prohibit discrimination against pregnant workers due to their pregnancy status. Hiring a less-qualified applicant over an applicant who is in her third trimester, choosing to terminate an employee's employment because she becomes pregnant, or refusing to consider a qualified worker for a promotion because of concerns about her upcoming maternity leave are all examples of illegal adverse action that violates employees' rights under the law. It is also illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who raise concerns about potential pregnancy discrimination. If you have lost a job, a promotion, or a job opportunity due to your pregnancy, you should contact one of our Austin pregnancy discrimination lawyers, who can advise you on whether you can bring a claim.

Employees often find that their employers have misconceptions about the ability of pregnant workers to do their job adequately, or believe in harmful stereotypes about pregnancy and motherhood. For example, they may assume that any woman who becomes pregnant will stop paying attention to her job responsibilities, or be distracted and less able to carry them out. Sometimes employers' beliefs about pregnant women can create a hostile environment in the workplace. Pregnant employees may be the target of offensive or inappropriate jokes or comments from their coworkers or bosses; if this harassment is severe or pervasive enough to change the terms and conditions of the workplace, it may rise to the level of discrimination. If you are harassed at work because of your pregnancy, you may be able to bring a claim for pregnancy discrimination due to the existence of a hostile environment.

Are Pregnancies Covered by Disability Law?

Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, employers must give the same leave, benefits, and accommodations to pregnant employees that they give to any other employee. They must treat an employee's pregnancy identically to how they would treat any other temporary disability or restriction in work abilities, allowing reasonable accommodations such as lighter duties or additional breaks. Normally, pregnancies do not count as a disability, but some pregnancies may be considered disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Pregnancy-related ailments covered by the ADA include gestational diabetes, severe morning sickness, pregnancy-induced hypertension, or other conditions creating a high-risk pregnancy. If your pregnancy is covered by the ADA, and you are still able to reasonably perform your duties, your boss must provide you with reasonable accommodations. These accommodations may include taking leave, working from home, or modifying job responsibilities. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which applies to employers with over 50 employees, provides workers with 12 weeks of unpaid time off to address medical needs related to their pregnancy.

When Can You Make a Claim?

Pregnancy can be a stressful time, and the deadlines related to making a claim for pregnancy discrimination may be strict. Depending on the details of your case, you may have anywhere between 180 to 300 days to make your claim, so it is important to contact one of our Austin workplace discrimination lawyers as soon as possible if you have been discriminated against due to your pregnancy. We will work with you to make your case as strong as possible for the TWC or EEOC. If you believe you are the victim of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, you can get in touch with us by filling out our intake form or calling our office at (512) 271-5527.

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