Various state and federal laws, such as the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, prohibit this practice. Yet the problem persists, partially because many employers who discriminate against pregnant women do not feel they are doing anything wrong. Additionally, watchdog agencies, like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, often show little interest in these matters, mostly because they are difficult to prove in court.
If you have been a victim of pregnancy discrimination, a Chicago employment discrimination lawyer might be able to obtain compensation for your lost wages and other economic losses. Moreover, if reinstatement is not a practical option, compensation usually includes a reasonable amount of front (future) wages. Additional compensation for other losses, such as pain and suffering, might be available, as well.
Frequently, this type of bias occurs during the hiring process. Some employers hesitate to extend job offers to workers who will soon be entitled to substantial leave time. Even if the newly-hired worker does not qualify for paid time off, the Family Medical Leave Act usually gives workers 12 weeks of unpaid leave in any 12-month period.
If employees pay their portions during their leave times, their employers must maintain health insurance and other benefits. Additionally, when these workers return, they are legally guaranteed the same or a similar position. There is no waiting period and no excuses.
These cases are difficult for employers to defend in court. They must provide a discriminatory-neutral justification for the decision. They must also show that the proported neutral justification was not simply a pretext for discrimination.
Blue-collar manufacturing positions are a good example of unintentional pregnancy job bias. Frequently, these positions involve exposure to toxic chemicals. Or, they present physical challenges, such as frequent bending or stooping. In these situations, many employers are paternalistic. They cite potential health dangers to the mother or the baby as an excuse to reassign the employee to another position. Commonly, the alternate position means lower pay or a less desirable shift.
Such moves might well be in the best interests of the employee. However, that decision belongs to the woman, and not to her boss. So, if your boss reassigns you when you disclose your pregnancy, that reassignment probably violated the PDA or another state or federal law.
Laws such as the PDA do not cover all pregnancy job bias issues. Sometimes, these workers can function normally if they receive an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Even though pregnancy is almost always a voluntary condition, it is a disability under federal law. Some possible accommodations include:
- Carts, gates, lifts, and other devices that make it easier to carry items,
- Schedule changes or mini-refrigerators to accommodate special dietary needs or nausea,
- Ergonomic furniture, and
- Heated or cooled clothing to accommodate temperature sensitivity.
Under the ADA, an accommodation is usually reasonable if a doctor suggests or orders the accommodation. There is usually no negotiation with the employer. If a pregnant worker has a medical need for a $200 office chair, she normally does not need to settle for a $100 chair.
Contact an Aggressive Lawyer
Pregnancy discrimination comes in many forms. For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago employment discrimination attorney, contact the Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline. We do not charge upfront legal fees in job bias cases.