For pregnant women in the workplace, discrimination can consist of being terminated, being demoted, or never being employed in the first place. According to industry-experienced workplace harassment lawyers, it can also oftentimes take more subtle forms. Here are a few less apparent ways pregnancy discrimination can affect workers.
Transfers to Less Desirable Positions
Expecting women might see that they have been given less shifts, less desirable positions , or prospects that offer lower pay or less benefits . Sometimes , an employer may inform a pregnant worker the transfer is to her advantage or is due to a perceived lack of ability to accomplish her job duties. However, an employer cannot exercise “benign discrimination” by unilaterally appointing a pregnant worker to less burdensome or safer job tasks based on her pregnancy if doing so causes an adverse employment action (decreased pay, benefits, promotion opportunities, etc.).
Missing Out on Prospects
Pregnant workers in careers that include certain desirable assignments or tasks may find themselves being passed over for opportunities because of their pregnancy. Though employers must assess how to adequately staff projects and conduct their operations; failing to choose pregnant workers for desirable tasks could be a form of impermissible discrimination. Another instance of prohibited discrimination is passing over employees for promotions or other advancements based on their pregnancy.
Under the Boston law often cited by reputable discrimination lawyers in Massachusetts, employers in Boston must treat pregnant women or women suffering from pregnancy-related circumstances (e.g., the loss of a pregnancy) in the same way as other employees who are alike in their ability to perform their jobs. If an employer transfers, reassigns, demotes, or fails to offer opportunities to a worker based on her pregnancy, it may violate these laws.
Harassment in the Workplace: Is It an Issue You Need to Address?
Pregnant workers are sometimes subject to unwanted comments and behaviors, such as sexist discussions about how their pregnancy will limit their career or sexist jokes. They may be exposed to hurtful comments, inappropriate touching, and demeaning behavior.
Under Boston law, employers are obligated to take reasonable steps to prevent workplace harassment and to effectively investigate reports of harassment. Alleged violations of this law will be costly for employers who fail to prevent active harassment or discrimination against a worker who reports such harassment.
Because each workplace is different, your situation must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis by a lawyer who is experienced in cases of harassment and discrimination to determine if it involves impermissible discrimination. If you believe you have experienced pregnancy-related discrimination or if you need help requesting accommodation from your employer, we suggest you contact a reputable lawyer to learn more about your rights.