Sadly, there are some employers who simply aren’t able to feel congratulatory when one of their employees is pregnant. These employers tend to focus more on the possibility that the employee’s pregnancy may increase their need for time off and/or alter their ability to fulfill their job duties. Some pregnant employees may find their employer responding to news of their pregnancy with discrimination in the workplace. In extreme cases, it can even lead to termination of employment.
This situation is often referred to as pregnancy discrimination and it is not as rare as you may think. In fact, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (otherwise known as EEOC), 3,541 pregnancy discrimination charges were lodged in 2013 alone. And that number only reflects the portion of women experiencing pregnancy discrimination in the workplace who came forward to file an official complaint about the matter.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prevents employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating on the basis of a person’s sex. This means that covered employers are not allowed to deny employment opportunities, or limit, segregate or classify their employees based on the gender of their workers if it in any way affects their status as an employee adversely. The amendment to Title VII, known as The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, officially declared pregnancy discrimination as one form of sex-based discrimination. (The amendment also included childbirth and related medical conditions).
Employers sometimes see pregnancy or the birth of a child as a threat to their employee’s productivity. They may even feel that the employee’s need to take time off for doctor’s appointments, for the birth of their baby, and for time after the baby’s birth warrants adverse action, up to or including termination of the employee’s position at the company. This is discrimination. When an employer decides to terminate a pregnant employee instead of allowing her to take time off, allowing her modified duties (as necessary), or holding the employee’s job during leave time related to the pregnancy or birth, the employee likely has a valid pregnancy discrimination claim.
Employees who are experiencing pregnancy discrimination in the workplace should file a charge with the EEOC. Charges must be made within 180 days of the act of discrimination and are required to be on record prior to filing a discrimination lawsuit.
If you are dealing with pregnancy discrimination or a wrongful termination, please get in touch with one of the experienced Georgia employment law attorneys at Barrett & Farahany.