Your Rights to Pregnancy Accommodations in the Workplace

Your Rights to Pregnancy Accommodations in the Workplace

Pregnancy discrimination complaints account for almost half of the job discrimination complaints in Chicagoland. Such job bias is especially common at either end of the employment scale, in low-wage, physically demanding occupations or high-wage occupations. Frequently, companies believe they are doing the right thing when they discriminate against pregnant employees. This feeling makes pregnancy discrimination difficult to eradicate.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has a small team of investigators and lawyers who are supposed to enforce the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and other such provisions. But this agency has limited resources. It usually only takes high-profile cases that could result in large damage awards. A private Chicago pregnancy discrimination lawyer is different. To a private lawyer, no case is too big, and no case is too small.

Excuses for Discrimination

Paternal pregnancy discrimination is common in low-wage and high-stress occupations, like factory workers.

Assume Kelly works the night shift at a bleach bottling factory in Chicago, where she is a shift supervisor. When she tells her boss she is pregnant, her boss transfers her to a clerical position at a small satellite office in Evanston. The position pays a lot less, and Kelly has less authority. 

Her boss probably thinks the transfer is in Kelly’s best interests. Her new position is less physically taxing, has better hours, is closer to her doctor and family in Evanston, and does not expose her to toxic chemicals. Her boss is probably right on all these points.

However, the transfer decision belongs to Kelly and her family, not to Kelly’s boss. If Kelly requests the transfer, her boss must probably accommodate her, as outlined below. But her boss cannot compel Kelly to transfer simply because she is pregnant.

Pregnancy discrimination in high-wage occupations is usually based on a “you owe us” mentality. Many companies think they are doing pregnant mothers a favor by offering them relatively cushy jobs. What they give, they have a right to take away.

Once again, the employer may be right on these points. But pregnant women are in a protected class. Employers cannot treat them differently because they are different. Employers also cannot have policies that disproportionately affect a protected class. An English-only requirement is a classic example. This requirement seems neutral, but it disproportionately affects workers who don’t speak good English.

Accommodations Available

Schedule adjustments are just one example of pregnancy accommodations in the workplace. Some of the other accommodations available to pregnant workers include the following: 

  • Mothers need time off for doctors’ appointments. If a worker’s pregnancy has some complications, as many pregnancies do, that worker will need even more time off. The Family Medical Leave Act usually applies in such situations. The FMLA makes it easy for employees to obtain unpaid leave time for personal health and some other reasons.
  • If a mother chooses to breastfeed, she should be given time and space while at work in order to pump in private. This space must not be a bathroom. This has been federally mandated since the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 2010. Any worker choosing to pump at work must be paid for the time she spends doing so. 
  • A pregnant worker may not be able to stand for long periods of time due to physical discomfort or other more serious health concerns. A worker who has just given birth may also be unable to stand all day long. These workers can request to have appropriate seating available to them during the work day. 
  • Pregnant workers may also be able to keep food or drinks accessible during the work day when they may not otherwise be allowed. 
  • Telecommuting may be an available option for pregnant workers or those who have recently given birth, as well. This helps to accommodate those workers with lingering physical ailments related to pregnancy and those who have been prescribed bed rest. 

Reach Out to a Tough-Minded Cook County Attorney

Job bias victims have legal options in Illinois. For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago pregnancy discrimination attorney, contact the Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline. Virtual, home, and after-hours visits are available.