Many women continue to work through their pregnancies, often up to their due dates. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), it is generally safe to work outside the home, including in some high-risk occupations where work accommodations may allow for continued safe employment. Unfortunately, not all expecting mothers are treated fairly in the workplace.
Pregnancy discrimination is a form of employment discrimination that occurs when a pregnant woman is fired, not hired, or discriminated against in another way due to an existing pregnancy or her intention to become pregnant. Pregnancy discrimination is against the law and employers found guilty of discrimination could face hefty penalties, including punitive damages.
Pregnancy Discrimination Laws in the United States
According to a 2022 Morning Consult survey, 1 in 5 (20 percent) mothers say that they have experienced pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. The survey also revealed that 1 in 4 (23 percent) mothers have considered leaving their jobs due to a fear of discrimination or a lack of reasonable accommodations during pregnancy.
In the United States, laws enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) prohibit employers from treating women differently, or less favorably, due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related health condition. Employers must also treat women who are temporarily unable to perform their job duties due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related health condition the same as other employees deemed temporarily disabled.
Laws enforced by the EEOC protect pregnant women from being harassed at work by co-workers, managers, and other individuals in the workplace due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related health condition. These laws also protect individuals who are harassed or punished at work because they closely associate with someone who complains about pregnancy discrimination, a term referred to as workplace retaliation.
Arizona Civil Rights Act Amended to Protect Pregnant Employees
On February 4, 2021, Arizona Governor Dough Ducey signed HB 2045 into law to expand protection for pregnant employees under Arizona law. This amendment of the Arizona Civil Rights Act (ACRA) reflects existing protections under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978.
HB 2045 was passed into law as the ACRA did not previously provide certain protections for pregnancy and related health conditions. The passing of HB 2045 was designed to help bridge the gap between state and federal pregnancy employment laws. Arizona joined at least 27 other states that have already enacted laws that specifically prohibit discrimination against pregnant workers.
Frequently Asked Questions About Pregnancy Discrimination
Pregnancy discrimination in the workplace can be a complex topic, especially as federal and state laws change and evolve. Some of the most frequently asked questions about pregnancy discrimination include:
1. Can I be refused a job because I’m pregnant?
No, a person cannot be refused a job because they are pregnant. Refusal to hire due to pregnancy is a form of pregnancy discrimination.
2. Can I claim pregnancy discrimination if my employer doesn’t know I’m pregnant?
A person cannot be a victim of pregnancy discrimination if their employer does not know they are pregnant. However, if an employer suspects or believes that you are pregnant, they could treat you unfavorably due to your pregnancy or a health condition caused by your pregnancy.
3. Can I request time off for prenatal or antenatal appointments?
Yes, pregnant employees have a statutory right to paid time off during working hours to receive prenatal or antenatal care, regardless of their length of service or hours worked. Failure to provide pregnant employees with time off for prenatal or antenatal appointments may be pregnancy discrimination.
4. Can I be dismissed from my job during pregnancy?
An employee can be dismissed during pregnancy for a fair reason that is unrelated to their pregnancy. However, the dismissal cannot be in any way related to the employee’s pregnancy, a pregnancy-related illness, or maternity leave.
5. Can I be refused a pay raise due to pregnancy or being on maternity leave?
No, an employer cannot deny an employee a pay raise due to being pregnant or on maternity leave, if she would have otherwise received the pay raise if she had not been pregnant or on maternity leave.
How to Protect Against Pregnancy Discrimination at Work
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) is a federal law that probits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating based on pregnancy in all areas of employment, including hiring, salary, layoffs, promotions, and firing. A pregnant employee who is unable to continue performing her job duties due to pregnancy or a pregnancy-related health condition is owed the same rights as any other temporarily disabled employee.
There are several things that pregnant employees should do to help protect themselves against pregnancy discrimination, including the following:
- Announce your pregnancy as soon as possible. A pregnant employee is covered by pregnancy discrimination laws directly after announcing their pregnancy which can make it easier to fight back against employment discrimination.
- Inform your employer of any pregnancy-related health conditions. If you have been diagnosed with a pregnancy-related health condition, inform your employer of your condition as soon as possible. You may be covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and entitled to reasonable accommodations, such as time off from work for medical appointments.
- Document all the details of your case. Keep all records of your interactions with your employer, manager, and other co-workers in relation to your pregnancy or pregnancy-related health condition. Having written exchanges can be useful in proving your case later.
- Report discrimination to human resources (HR). If you believe that you are a victim of pregnancy discrimination, report the problem in writing to HR as soon as possible. It is important to have a record of your complaints in the event that you need to pursue a discrimination claim.
- Speak with an employment discrimination attorney. It can be difficult to prove pregnancy discrimination on your own. If you are the victim of employment discrimination due to pregnancy, contact an employment discrimination attorney to determine if you have a case.
Fight Back Against Pregnancy Discrimination at Work
At JacksonWhite, we understand the stress that pregnancy discrimination can cause your family. That is why we represent clients who have experienced discrimination in the workplace due to pregnancy or a pregnancy-related health condition.
Contact our Arizona employment law team to learn how we can assist you in filing unlawful discrimination charges against your employer. Call the JacksonWhite Employment Law team today at (480) 464-1111 to discuss your case.