As an employee in Washington, the law protects you from any form of discrimination based on protected characteristics such as race, color, national origin, marital status, sex, and sexual orientation. This protection also extends to pregnancy.
However, pregnancy discrimination is a significant employment issue affecting a number of women in the workplace. To effectively handle the matter, you need the right information about pregnancy discrimination so you can protect your rights effectively.
What is Considered Pregnancy Discrimination?
Pregnancy discrimination is the unfair treatment of employees due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition caused by pregnancy or childbirth. It violates employment law because you are entitled to the same treatment as your colleagues who share the same inability or ability to work.
Pregnancy discrimination comes in various forms, including:
- Refusing to hire an employee because of pregnancy or recent childbirth
- Denying employees maternity leave
- Firing an employee because of pregnancy
- Harassment on the grounds of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions
Withholding career growth opportunities or limiting a woman’s productivity at work by reducing or adjusting job expectations also qualify as pregnancy discrimination.
If you ask for accommodation, such as changing your work schedule due to morning sickness, and your employer fails to respond adequately, you may also file for pregnancy discrimination.
What Does the Pregnancy Discrimination Act Cover?
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) is an amendment of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 1964. It protects employees from pregnancy discrimination during hiring, promotion, pay, allocating benefits, and firing. The PDA only applies to companies with 15 or more employees. The amendment covers the following:
- Harassment: The PDA makes it illegal to harass women due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. This includes sexual harassment or any other form of harassment that is severe enough to impair productivity and create a hostile work environment. Harassment could come from a supervisor, colleagues, or even clients.
- Retaliation: Retaliation against an employee for filing a complaint against an employer who violates PDA is illegal.
- Temporary Disability: According to PDA, women unable to perform their duties due to temporary disability caused by pregnancy should be treated the same way as other employees with temporary disabilities. Pregnancy-related conditions like preeclampsia are considered disabilities by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
- Leave: The Family Medical Leave Act states that an employer who allows other temporarily disabled employees to take a disability or unpaid leave should do the same to women with temporary disability due to pregnancy. On the same note, the employer cannot choose conditions that qualify for the leave.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act only prevents employers from treating pregnant women or new mothers differently in the workplace. It does not provide special treatment on the grounds of pregnancy.
How Do I Deal with Pregnancy Discrimination at Work?
If you face pregnancy discrimination at work, there are various ways to handle the matter. As with every discrimination case at work, you should always take note of your working environment. Document instances of discrimination, as accurate records will help you prove your case in the future.
If you experience wrongful termination due to pregnancy, keep the termination letter and any other relevant documents like your work performance results. You should also consult an employment lawyer immediately for legal advice. Doing so gives you a scope of your case and helps you make informed decisions.
Filing a complaint gives you the right to sue if you decide to take legal action. The state of Washington requires you to file a complaint within 300 days from the time you experience discrimination. It is advisable to talk to your lawyer before filing the claim.
If the EEOC conducts an investigation and finds no case of discrimination, they will send you a letter called the “Dismissal and Notice of Rights”. Within the letter, it lays out ways that you can still seek legal action against your employer.
How Much is a Pregnancy Discrimination Case Worth?
Establishing an accurate value of a pregnancy discrimination case can be challenging. Your case’s value depends on factors like the judge, availability of evidence, as well as your attorney’s skills and experience. Most cases end in out-of-court settlements which often offer lower amounts of compensation. Although going to trial has the possibility of higher settlement, it is not always the case.
The amount you get may also depend on your employer’s worth and your losses in wages. The type of case also dictates your settlement, as filing a case under PDA may cap damages at $500,000.
Note you may not appeal the judge’s decision if you go to trial and feel like the settlement is not big enough. Since every case is unique, you should consult with your employment attorney to get the value of your specific case and establish whether going to trial is the best option for you.
Reach Out to a Bellevue Employee Discrimination Lawyer Today
The HKM Employment Attorneys law firm is always available to offer legal advice and litigation services if you feel that you are a victim of pregnancy discrimination at work. Our legal professionals have extensive experience in handling employment discrimination cases and will help you explore your options and seek the justice you deserve. Contact our offices in Bellevue today to get started with an initial consultation.