The state of Colorado has provided anti-discrimination protection to those seeking employment since the 1964 Federal Civil Rights Act was implemented. However, pregnant women were not included in the protections that Colorado state law established. In June of 2016, the Governor of Colorado signed a new law that became effective on August 10, 2016 protecting pregnant workers from discrimination. Understanding Colorado’s Pregnant Workers Fairness Act can help employees remain aware of their rights while preventing employers from engaging in an often overlooked form of employment discrimination.
Pregnancy Discrimination Explained
In the past, women seeking employment were questioned about their interest in marriage and starting a family. A woman who one assumed would leave her position at the earliest opportunity in order to be a housewife was viewed less favorably than male applications. Eventually, the Civil Rights Act protected women against gender-based discrimination, but it was still possible for an employer to discriminate against a woman because she was pregnant. Refusing to hire a qualified employee who is capable of performing her job functions solely because she is pregnant is pregnancy discrimination. Other actions that constitute pregnancy discrimination are requiring medical clearance that is not required of other employees or overlooking a pregnant employee who is eligible for a promotion or raise in favor of an employee who is not pregnant.
The new law provides pregnant employees protections that previously were not required under Colorado law. In addition to preventing employers from refusing to hire women who are pregnant the new law stipulates that employers must provide pregnant employees with reasonable accommodations. These accommodations may include frequent breaks, limitations on lifting, transfers to less hazardous or strenuous positions for the duration of the pregnancy, assistance with manual labor, and work schedules that are modified. While an employer must make reasonable accommodations that do not create undue hardship on their business available, they cannot force a pregnant employee to accept that accommodation. That includes forcing a pregnant employee to go on a leave of absence rather than performing light or modified duty.
If an employer fails to accommodate a pregnant employee or engages in any action that can be viewed as retaliatory, there are damages available to employees under the new act. Employees who believe they have been discriminated against because of a pregnancy can file a lawsuit under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act. The lawsuit allows the employee to seek financial compensation, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees.
When to Contact an Attorney
If you or someone close to you believes that an employer is engaging in pregnancy discrimination, it is important to contact an attorney immediately. An employment discrimination attorney is able to discuss the experience and provide legal advice based on your unique situation. The attorneys at HKM are able to provide you with the aggressive representation necessary for protecting your rights. Contact our conveniently located Denver, Colorado office at 303-991-3075 today to schedule a consultation so that we can begin discussing your case and providing you with the legal assistance that you deserve.