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Workers face discrimination for pregnancy and breastfeeding

Examples of discrimination against parents in workplaces in California and nationwide are not hard to find. Although people might expect the Family Medical Leave Act to provide job protections for pregnancy, birth and caring for family members, the law only applies to about 60 percent of employees. Employers routinely deny workplace accommodations to pregnant or breastfeeding women or punish them for taking leave.

Female dockworkers at West Coast ports reportedly experienced sexual discrimination. They lose their seniority when they take pregnancy leave, which deprives them of opportunities to ascend to lucrative union positions. Meanwhile their male colleagues face no penalties when they take leave for workplace injuries or military duty.

In another example, a female police officer had to take seven months off without pay during her pregnancy. Her employer refused to accommodate her condition with a temporary reassignment to a desk job instead of patrol duties. The same police department, however, regularly grants employees less strenuous work for medical conditions.

Employers sometimes continue discrimination after workers give birth by denying them the opportunity to pump breast milk. This action either inflicts physical pain on nursing women or forces them out of their jobs.

An individual might feel powerless in the face of workplace discrimination, but an attorney might provide advice about how to challenge mistreatment. An attorney could research the situation to see if the employer is violating employment law by retaliating against complaints, denying lawful requests or harassing someone because of sex, age, religion or disability. After documenting the legal violations, an attorney may decide to approach the employer and request a remedy for the problem that could include reinstatement to a job or compensation for financial damages. If a case must go to trial, then an attorney might prepare court filings, manage jury selection and present evidence.