Pregnancy and childbirth are among the most natural life events a woman can go through. With slight adjustments to their environment and routine, most women can continue with normal life throughout most of their pregnancies. Still, women in the workplace continue to face examples of unfair treatment despite the passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act over 40 years ago. Understanding how the law protects them is the first step for California women to ensure they are receiving fair treatment in the workplace.
An employer may not base unfair treatment — such as firing, demoting or cancelling her health insurance — on a woman’s pregnancy or any related medical conditions. Terminating employment or forcing a woman to take unpaid leave after learning of her pregnancy is a violation of her rights. As long as the woman is able to perform her duties with reasonable accommodations, she has a right to continue working.
Failing to accommodate a pregnant woman is another common source of discrimination in the workplace. She may need to sit down more often, reduce her lifting requirements or adjust her schedule for medical appointments. Additionally, the law allows women to take time off for birth and bonding, and employers must provide a clean and private place for lactation when she returns.
Many California women are fortunate to have employers who are willing to work with them throughout their pregnancies. However, this is not always the case. Those new or expectant mothers who meet resistance with their employers may wish to explore their legal options. Often, taking action in civil court is an effective way to impress upon an employer the importance of complying with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and all other anti-discrimination laws.