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Pregnancy and the new workplace discrimination law

In June 2013, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission unveiled a new protected class of workers when it announced the introduction of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The PDA makes it unlawful for employers to treat a woman unfavorably because of her pregnancy, childbirth or even a medical condition that is related to being pregnant or giving birth.

Because the law is still very new, most people want to know what is workplace pregnancy discrimination and how does it manifest inside a regular work environment? In most situations, affected women would be either applying for a job or already an employee of a company when they would encounter a pregnancy discrimination. Here are some examples of situations that are forbidden under the PDA:

-- When applying for a job while pregnant, an applicant is told to reapply after she's given birth.

-- A pregnant employee is denied a promotion because the employer believes she will be too preoccupied with the new child to perform her new work duties.

-- A pregnant woman is fired for not performing her job duties despite providing medical proof of a temporary disability brought on by the pregnancy such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia.

-- An employer creates a hostile work environment by blaming an increase in workload among coworkers on the pregnant employee.

-- An employer refuses to allow a pregnant employee time off for maternity leave.

It is important to know that workplace discrimination takes many forms, and some of them may seem unusual. For example, a hostile work environment created as a result of pregnancy discrimination does not always have to be committed by a supervisor or even another coworker in order to be prohibited by the PDA. In fact, a third-party such as a client visiting the workspace or a visitor can harass a pregnant woman and create a sufficiently hostile workplace environment.

New Jersey women who are pregnant or soon to become pregnant should know that although the PDA is a federal law, it also has effect throughout the state of New Jersey.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commision, "EEOC- Pregnancy Discrimination" Aug. 07, 2014

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