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What pregnancy discrimination in the workplace looks like

There’s one type of workplace discrimination that only affects half the workforce: pregnancy discrimination.

Unfortunately, there’s plenty of evidence that pregnancy discrimination is alive and well at many large companies throughout the United States. Women at all levels of employment — from executive branches to the packing room floors — report that they’ve been sidelined or treated unfairly (or even with outright hostility) due to pregnancy.

Employers are seldom foolish enough to outright fire a woman for getting pregnant — since that’s clearly illegal under federal discrimination laws. However, they often find other ways to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with a pregnancy. These tactics include:

1. Pushing an employee to take unpaid leave

Unless a woman’s doctor has told her that her job is somehow hazardous to her baby or health and there are no reasonable accommodations available, there’s no reason to take unpaid leave for a pregnancy. However, managers will sometimes push a pregnant employee to take leave “for safety reasons” that seem vague.

2. Treating a woman as if she’s incapable of balancing motherhood with a career

Comments that show an employer assumes that a pregnant woman or mother will suddenly become incapable of doing her job are indicators of bias and discrimination. For example, statements like, “I hope you’re not going to let your work suffer due to this pregnancy,” or “Motherhood makes it impossible to dedicate yourself to your job,” are an issue.

3. Passing a pregnant woman over for promotion

Has someone far less-qualified been promoted over you during a pregnancy when you were sure that the promotion should have been yours? It’s possible that your boss decided not to promote you because he or she resented the fact that you’ll soon be out on maternity leave. It’s also illegal.

4. Making medical leave and accommodation as difficult as possible

Are you being asked for incredibly detailed letters from your doctor about your medical needs due to your pregnancy in order to support an accommodation request or leave? If you’re being singled out in a way that other employees with a medical condition aren’t, the odds are good you’re experiencing serious pregnancy discrimination and thinly-veiled hostility.

It’s your right to be treated fairly in the workplace — regardless of your pregnancy. If you’re experiencing pregnancy discrimination, it’s time to consider all your legal options.

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