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What rights do women have against pregnancy discrimination?

For most women in Michigan and across the country, having a baby is a time of joy and happiness. However, that can all be undone if women have a concern that their jobs will no longer be available to them or other forms of workplace discrimination will occur due to the decision to have a child. What many might not be aware of is that pregnancy discrimination is illegal and there are steps that can be taken if it happens.

Women are protected from pregnancy discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This means they cannot be confronted with discrimination based on any aspect of pregnancy. Women who are pregnant are required by law to be treated the same as fellow employees or prospective employees who are not pregnant. The employer is not allowed to decide against giving employment to a pregnant woman based on the pregnancy alone as long as she can do the job as it is required. Pregnancy cannot influence promotions, raises, assignments, training programs, dismissals or any other condition related to the job.

A pregnant worker must be allowed to work as long as she is able to do her job. If the employee cannot come to work because of any issue related to the pregnancy, the employer cannot force her to stay on maternity leave until the baby is born. In addition, the employer cannot require that the worker come back for a specific period after the baby was born.

The Family Medical Leave Act was enacted in 1993 and allows an employee 12 weeks of unpaid leave. The time off is to provide care for the child. Then, once the employee is ready to return, she is allowed to do so. While it might sound unusual and heartless for an employer to try to dismiss a pregnant worker or refuse to allow her the rights she is entitled to under the law, it does happen. Those who have faced this form of workplace discrimination and violations of their employee rights may be able to pursue an employment law claim.

Source: eeoc.gov, "Pregnancy Discrimination," accessed on Oct. 13, 2015

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