Pregnancy discrimination remains a widespread problem in Ohio and the rest of the United States. And despite more than 40 years of legal protection for pregnant employees, many feel the Pregnancy Discrimination Act hasn’t done enough to foster a more equitable working environment.
What can pregnancy discrimination look like?
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act outlaws any biased or unfair treatment of pregnant employees. However, pregnancy discrimination isn’t always blatant and egregious. If you feel mistreated at work because of your pregnancy, your employer’s actions may be discriminatory if:
- They reject your leave request: Once you give birth, you probably want to take some time off to spend with your new child. If you put in a maternity leave request and your employer denies it, that could be a form of pregnancy discrimination. This action could also violate the Family Medical Leave Act, which states employees who’ve been at their job for at least 12 months may take
- They refuse your request for light-duty work: Heavy lifting can play a significant role in your work if you have a manual labor job. Since heavy lifting can be unsafe for pregnant women, you can request to do “light-duty work” or tasks that aren’t as physically demanding. These tasks can allow you to work without risking your health and safety. If there are light-duty tasks, you can perform, but your employer refuses to give them to you, that can qualify as pregnancy discrimination.
- You receive hostile comments at work: Disparaging comments about your pregnancy can feel hurtful and create a hostile work environment. Whether you hear them from your manager, a coworker or even a customer, you should never have to endure this type of harassment. Also, comments don’t need to be blunt or outright insulting to be discriminatory. For example, a coworker makes a backhanded comment about doing all your work for you while you’re on maternity leave.
- They deny you a promotion due to pregnancy: Getting denied a promotion can be devastating. However, if you discover your employer made their decision because of your pregnancy, that is illegal. Employer biases can sometimes influence their decision-making and they may think you won’t be as committed to a higher-level role because you’re expecting. It’s also illegal for your employer to demote you because of your pregnancy.
- They fire you because of your pregnancy: Losing your job when you’re pregnant can create a lot of anxiety and uncertainty. That’s especially true if your termination caught you off guard. And while Ohio follows employment-at-will laws, getting fired because you’re pregnant is illegal. For example, if you’ve always been a top performer at your job and your employer fires you after your pregnancy announcement, those actions may be discriminatory.
Pregnant employees can take action
Pregnant employees in all industries across Ohio deserve fair treatment. If you’re facing pregnancy discrimination at work, documenting evidence can help you establish a strong case should you wish to pursue legal action.