Dealing with Pregnancy Discrimination
The laws surrounding pregnancy and maternity leave are often misunderstood and in some cases, completely disregarded. Similar to the laws laid out in the Family and Medical Leave Act, the laws governing and preventing pregnancy discrimination are there for the protection of the woman and her family. There have been times when during a pregnancy, women have felt the need to hide their condition for fear of discrimination or harassment. Needless to say, such a happy time in a woman’s life should never be overshadowed by fear of facing repercussions, loss of her job position or termination.
Thankfully, pregnancy discrimination is no longer as common as it once was, but it is still an issue that must be understood by employers and employees alike. If you feel you have been discriminated against because of your pregnancy, consult with a Washington employment law attorney from our firm right away. With over 40 years experience, our skilled attorneys will be able to meticulously review your case, advise you of your rights and fight hard to ensure those rights are protected.
Video: Attorney Daniel Kalish Discusses Pregnancy Discrimination in Washington
Aspects of Pregnancy Discrimination
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act makes it illegal for any employer to wrongfully terminate, harass or discriminate against an employee because of the birth of a child or a pregnancy. It is critical for an employee to seek legal representation if you feel you are being discriminated against based on your pregnancy.
Pregnancy discrimination can affect a variety of aspects including:
- Pay Increases
- Leaves of Absence
Pregnancy Discrimination Law in Washington
Under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), discrimination on the basis of pregnancy constitutes sex discrimination. The law protects against discrimination based on pregnancy, pregnancy-related illnesses or disabilities, or likelihood of becoming pregnant. In order for a pregnant woman to show she has suffered sex discrimination, WLAD requires her to prove:
- She is a member of a protected class (women are a protected class);
- She is qualified for the employment position or of performing substantially equal work as others in similar positions;
- An employer took an adverse employment action such as termination or denial of promotion or pay increase against her;
- The person the employer selected as a replacement or for promotion ahead of her was not a pregnant woman.
Furthermore, Washington law does not require a woman to disclose her pregnancy to her employer or a prospective employer, as that employer may not use her pregnancy or potential to become pregnant as the basis for an employment decision. If you are a pregnant woman and you decide to disclose your pregnancy to your employer, Washington law prohibits them from treating you any differently than other employees. You must be provided with the same short-term and/or temporary disability benefits as an employee with a different medical condition.
Pregnant employees at larger companies will likely be able to qualify for benefits under the Washington Family Leave Act (FLA). FLA is more generous to women who must take time off during their pregnancies due to temporary conditions or disabilities than the federal Family Medical Leave Act. For example, under federal law, if a woman takes time off during pregnancy, both FMLA time and pregnancy disability time run concurrently, which limits the FMLA leave available following childbirth. On the other hand, state FLA leave does not begin to run until pregnancy disability time is exhausted. Therefore, if a woman must take off 12 weeks during pregnancy due to complications, she is still entitled to the full 12 weeks of FLA time following childbirth. Moreover, if a woman does not need to take any time off preceding the birth, FMLA allows only 12 weeks total following the birth.
Under Washington law, however, after childbirth she is entitled to 6 weeks of disability time plus an additional 12 weeks of FLA leave. Therefore, simply because an employer provides time off under FMLA, a Washington employee will likely be entitled to additional time under state law and it is illegal to deny an employee these additional leave benefits.
Please note that it is fully legal to fire a pregnant employee for being unproductive. Therefore employers need to ensure they are not being wrongfully accused of pregnancy discrimination and if so, seek legal representation to help protect themselves and their company.
If you believe you are being discriminated against due to your pregnancy, contact a Washington employment law attorney at HKM Employment Attorneys today to schedule a private consultation and full review of your case.