Today's workforce is more diverse than ever, and even though a large majority of the workforce are women, discrimination still exists especially when it comes to pregnancy.
A law was created to fight this type of discrimination in 1978, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) which is an amendment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Even though women are supposed to be protected if they are pregnant or become pregnant, there are still cases of discrimination. Any potential place of employment needs to be aware of the PDA. A failure to adhere to the PDA could cost an employer money, time, and their reputation.
There have been multiple recent examples of discrimination against women. An example of this is when a chain of fitness centers was ordered to pay $86,000 to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit that was filed by the US Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The woman had been interviewed and was to be added as an employee at the Rockville, Maryland location. The woman later came in to fill in her availability and informed her employer that she was thirty-five weeks pregnant. After the woman communicated her pregnancy, the employer stopped communication and told the women her position was on hold. However, two other people were hired for the same position and she was advised to apply for another job opening later in the year.
Even though the fitness chain advised the woman to apply for a position after her pregnancy, this is still discrimination. The EEOC states that a person cannot be denied employment based on pregnancy, childbirth, or other related medical conditions. PDA also prohibits discrimination of pregnant women in hiring, firing, promotions, fringe training, and benefits. The fitness chain will have to review its annual anti-discrimination policies.
There are more examples of women who have been discriminated against because they are pregnant. A woman who was employed at a furniture store was told by a manger she could not work because she would be exposed to the chemicals being used to repair furniture. This resulted in the company having to make a $55,000 settlement and having the EECO stating that women have the right to decide while they are pregnant when to work and what chemicals they can expose themselves and the unborn fetus to. The company is also mandated to have a policy that will prohibit discrimination based on pregnancy and have annual training for supervisors, managers, and employees. The company is also required to post a notice about the lawsuit and the rights accorded by the EEOC.
Furthermore, a woman was offered a $5,500 settlement after she claimed that she was fired after she announced that she was pregnant. The woman claimed that her supervisor required her to announce when she was taking bathroom breaks and that she was unable to leave early to attend doctor's appointments. When the woman went to her doctor's appointment, she was fired.
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Women should not have to choose between having a job and having a family. It is discrimination and illegal to refuse employment to a qualified candidate after that candidate reveals her pregnancy status. Women should not be penalized for being pregnant or required to do any tasks (such as avoid restroom breaks) not required of employees who are not pregnant. Women should have equal opportunity at employment as any regular employee and the opportunities and rights as other employees.
There are several things that employers can do to help their female employees who are pregnant.
- Treat new mothers and perspective mothers fairly
- Treat employees who are temporarily unemployed due to pregnancy the same as any other employee with a temporary disability
- Explain and make sure any employee understands discrimination and the policies against it when it comes to pregnancy
- Have all laws and policies in writing
- Have annual anti-discrimination training available to all employees, managers, and supervisors
- Do not deny a potential employee a job based on pregnancy status or other childbirth related issues such as breastfeeding
- Do not ask any potential applicant if they have children or their future plans with having children
- Deny time off related to pregnancy conditions
- Ask a pregnant woman to perform any tasks not related to the normal job requirements