Pregnancy is a journey. With all of its joys and even hardships, it should never be a source for discrimination when it comes to the workplace. If you believe you were fired because of your pregnancy, you were most likely wrongfully terminated.
Your rights during pregnancy
Often times, we hear about the rights women have when they go on maternity leave after having a baby. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is one such right, allowing eligible employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave and job security. It is important to realize, however, that there are also laws in place that protect a mother during her pregnancy.
Pregnancy is a medical condition that is often categorized as a disability. Federal regulations were enacted to protect those with disabilities or serious medical conditions, pregnancy definitely being one of them.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees who are pregnant and suffer from anything as a result of the pregnancy that requires more doctor visits (such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes). It requires an employer to allow necessary modifications to a disabled employee's work schedule, and makes it illegal for employers to discriminate employees and make aspects of the job more difficult.
- The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) protects pregnant employees and does not allow discrimination in any sense when it comes to instances including, but not limited to, hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training and fringe benefits (leave and health insurance).
Discrimination and harassment
Pregnancy discrimination is defined, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as "treating a woman (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth." You should never be treated any differently because you become pregnant.
As a pregnant employee, you are also protected under PDA when it comes to harassment. When actions and words on the part of your employer, employees, or even clients and customers, are so extreme that your working environment becomes very unpleasant to work in, and/or you've gotten fired from your position, this is harassment.
Actions you can take
Instances may occur where employers try and disguise their attempt to discriminate by criticizing your work or your priorities, or with other excuses that terminate your employment. Understanding that these criticisms are unlawful is your first step. Taking note of specific instances of discrimination and harassment that occurred and then the reason for your termination, is also important. If you know of other employees that are/were pregnant under that employer, comparing notes on your treatment could also help you determine more about any illegal activity.
Contact your lawyer today if you think you have been wrongfully terminated.