Recognizing pregnancy discrimination in the workplace is crucial for both expectant mothers and employers committed to maintaining a fair and inclusive work environment. Thanks to federal laws including the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act – as well as laws implemented by every state in the Union – discrimination against pregnant or recently pregnant people rooted in the realities of this medical condition is unlawful.
Yet, partially because discrimination on the part of employers may be subconscious rather than intentional, pregnancy discrimination in the application process, termination process and broader employment can be challenging to spot.
What to look for
If you are pregnant or are navigating a pregnancy-related condition and you notice abrupt, unwarranted changes in your job status, such as a demotion, reduced hours or a sudden increase in workload after disclosing your pregnancy, it could be a sign of discrimination. Similarly, if you are being excluded from training opportunities, promotions or projects that you were previously involved in or are qualified for, it may be a form of discrimination. These forms of discrimination are relatively obvious.
Less obvious are forms of discrimination such as inconsistencies in how workplace policies are applied to pregnant employees compared to others with similar temporary medical conditions, as few employees have visibility into the ways in which everyone in a workplace is treated. Similarly, you may feel that your employer is subjecting you to excessive scrutiny or performance evaluations that seem unjustified and target your pregnancy, but this could be difficult to prove.
It’s important to remember that because spotting pregnancy discrimination may not always be a straightforward undertaking, trusting your instincts and seeking legal guidance can help you to clarify whether you’re suffering as a result of actionable conduct.