Harassment based on pregnancy is a type of sexual harassment that includes harassment and other forms of discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, and all medical conditions as they relate to pregnancy. Under federal law Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act, and California employment laws such as the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), an employer is prohibited from discriminating against an employee because of her pregnancy. Thus, women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, and all other related medical conditions must be treated the same as all non-pregnant employees when it comes to any employment-related issues. Such employment situations within which pregnant employees must be treated the same as all other employees with a similar ability/inability to work include the hiring and firing process, and the dispensing of employment benefits.
The Rights of Pregnant Employees in Los Angeles
Employers with five or more employees cannot discriminate against an employee because of a pregnancy-related condition. Pregnant women must be treated the same as nonpregnant employees and have the same right to all employment privileges and benefits, as long as the pregnant employee and nonpregnant employees have the similar ability to work. It is unlawful for an employer to engage in the following actions simply because of an employee’s pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions:
- Refusal to hire or promote, or the decision to terminate because of pregnancy;
- Reduction of benefits or pay because of pregnancy;
- Harassment of or otherwise discrimination against ie. use of slurs and/or stereotypes because of an employee’s pregnancy;
- Requirement of a pregnant employee to take a leave of absence because of their pregnancy;
- Limitation of the provision of pregnancy-related disability benefits to only those pregnant employees who are married; and
- Requirement of sterilization as an employment condition.
When an employee is pregnant, state law imposes specific requirements on employers. Most specifically, an employer must provide job security/protection for an employee when it is medically necessary for that employee to take up to four months of pregnancy disability leave. However, an employer does not have to guarantee that the employee’s job is secured when:
- The employee would not have been employed in the position they had before taking medical leave because of business reasons that are unrelated to the transfer or medical leave; or
- Keeping the job position open would substantially undermine the employer’s ability to operate a safe and efficient business.
Common Types of Pregnancy Harassment in The Workplace
In Los Angeles, harassment is one of the most common forms of discrimination and can give rise to a hostile work environment claim. Such claims allege that because of harassment a negative and abusive work environment has been created that cannot and should not be tolerated by an employer and the state of California. When an employer, supervisor or agent makes slurs, comments and otherwise harasses an employee because of their pregnancy, a strong case can be made for the fact that a hostile work environment exists. A prima facie case that illustrates a hostile work environment caused by pregnancy discrimination exists will prove the following elements:
- The employee belonged to a protected group;
- The employee was subjected to unwelcome harassment in the workplace;
- The unwelcome harassment was based on the victim’s pregnancy, childbirth or other related medical condition;
- The harassment was sufficiently pervasive such that it created an abusive work environment and altered employment conditions; and
- The accused employer was vicariously liable for the discrimination.
Los Angeles Legal Guidance/Assistance for Hostile Workplace Disputes
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Los Angeles, California for any assistance you need with a hostile workplace suit. We can provide legal assistance and representation for both employers and employees.