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Michelle Cohen Levy
Michelle Cohen Levy

3 ways pregnancy may lead to discrimination at work

On Behalf of | Dec 23, 2022 | Workplace Discrimination |

Pregnancy can be an incredible experience or a shock for the woman involved. How hard pregnancy is on a woman’s body varies drastically from person to person. Some women have almost no symptoms other than their growing abdomens and are able to remain active throughout all three trimesters.

Others may develop serious medical issues like gestational diabetes or preeclampsia that force them to reduce their activity or change their daily lives. In extreme cases, women may require bed rest during part of their pregnancy.

Pregnant women have protection from discrimination under federal and state laws. However, employers frequently discriminate against women who need support during their pregnancy or after giving birth.

1. Companies may refuse to provide accommodations

Pregnant women often have limits to how much they can lift at one time or how long they can stand. They may also need to take frequent breaks to eat, especially when they are at risk of morning sickness in the first trimester. If an employer won’t accommodate a woman by changing her job responsibilities while she’s pregnant, she may not be able to safely continue performing her job.

2. Companies may resent the need for unpaid leave

There are some employers that generously offer paid maternity leave, but many companies do not. In fact, they may retaliate against a woman who asks for unpaid leave related to pregnancy or delivery.

They may force her out right away or make it impossible for her to return to her job after her leave. Despite federal laws ensuring the right of pregnant women to take unpaid leave, companies may still treat women differently when they make use of those rights.

3. Companies may not accommodate lactating mothers

After pregnancy, a woman’s body goes through multiple changes. Some of those changes specifically occur to facilitate the production of breast milk. Lactating women are able to feed their babies exclusively with the milk that they make, and there are health benefits to both mother and child involved in doing so.

Despite federal law protecting the right of women to breastfeed after returning to work, many employers will deny lactating women accommodations. They may effectively force women to choose between keeping their jobs and doing what is actually right for their babies.

Women who have faced pregnancy discrimination in the workplace may need to fight back. Challenging pregnancy discrimination can benefit a woman mistreated because she had a child and also any women who may work at that company in the future.