California lawmakers been making strong efforts in the last year to reduce the amount of gender discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace. Unfortunately, old habits can die hard. One of the most frequent forms of discrimination that still shows no signs of slowing down no matter is against pregnant women.
Despite the creation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978, there have been thousands of lawsuits against employers who wrongfully treat expecting mothers. Between October 2010 and September 2015, nearly 31,000 charges of pregnancy discrimination were filed. Mothers are often fired, demoted or given less hours because their companies make false assumptions about their condition. It is important to be aware of these preconceived notions to prepare yourself in case you end up pregnant at work.
Over or underestimating physicality
Many workplaces with jobs that have a lot of physical work are often confused with what to do with pregnant workers. Some believe that the female employee would acquire one of the multiple disabilities associated with pregnancy and either fire them or demote them on the spot. Others go the opposite route and believe that carrying a child should not stop them from carrying out their everyday duties, physically and emotionally putting the employee and their unborn child at risk.
Doctors often warn expecting women not to strain themselves by lifting heavy objects too much while pregnant. However, that does not mean that the worker is not able to do anything on the job. The employer should make efforts to ensure that the future mother can still contribute without demoting or firing the worker. California also allows workers entitlement certain accommodations to different pregnancy disabilities such as longer breaks or using a chair while working.
Assuming the worker’s mentality
Earlier this year, The New York Times made an article highlighting the various stories of women who faced pregnancy discrimination at their jobs. One of the women featured talked about how her boss highlighted an article by BBC on how pregnancy can alter a woman’s brain for years to all of her co-workers when she was the only pregnant one there. The boss also supposedly displayed a number of discriminatory behaviors alongside this, so it is difficult to see his discussion on the BBC article having good intentions. Men do not know what it is like to be pregnant, and women should know that the mental effects it can have are not consistent with everyone.
One of the more popular assumptions is how having a child will impact the woman’s dedication to her job. Many continue to wrongfully guess that the employee might take it easy or consider quitting to focus more on raising her kid. These employers do not consider that, if anything, having a kid might motivate a mother to further advance in the company and strive for a higher paying job to pay for their child’s medical and educational needs. An employer should respect the mother’s wishes rather than make her decisions for her.
Pregnancy discrimination continues to ruin the lives of thousands of female workers. Employers should be doing everything they can to make the workplace safer for expecting mothers rather than try to force them out of their jobs. Pregnant workers who faced mistreatment for their condition can seek help from an employment law attorney to get compensation for any paychecks they missed out on from the company’s mismanagement.