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Can my employer discriminate against me for being pregnant?

The short answer is no, an employer is required to treat the pregnancy of an employee as it would any other temporarily disabled worker. These protections are enforced by a federal agency known as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and New Jersey's own Attorney General's Division on Civil Rights.

Under the federal statutes, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act specifically forbids employers from discriminating against workers in all aspects when it comes to pregnancy related matters. This includes hiring, pay, promotions and other conditions of your employment. This also applies to health insurance, unpaid leave or any other benefits for which you might be entitled.

One common question that some women have regarding pregnancy discrimination is whether complications from their pregnancy, such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes, might give an employer a valid excuse for terminating their employment. Employers are specifically prohibited from firing workers due to these types of conditions under the PDA.

Additionally, employers must make adjustments for pregnant workers just as they would for workers suffering from a temporary disability. This includes giving a pregnant worker the ability to perform light duty tasks, alternate assignments or other reasonable accommodations.

A consultation with a New Jersey employment rights attorney may be worthwhile if you suspect that an employer may have discriminated against you because of a pregnancy. Sometimes workplace discrimination can manifest itself in subtle and unique ways that may not be readily apparent to the average person.

Alternatively, business owners can also benefit from consulting with an employment rights attorney regarding their current business practices. An employment rights attorney can advise them on implementing company policies that may prevent them from unintentionally exposing their companies to potential workplace discrimination claims.

Source: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Pregnancy Discrimination," accessed Aug. 19, 2015

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