Pregnancy discrimination is defined as any form of workplace discrimination that a woman experienced because of her pregnancy, recent childbirth, or medical conditions related to either of these conditions. Pregnancy discrimination is considered to be a form of sex discrimination because it unfairly targets women; specifically, it targets mothers and women of childbearing age.
When the harassment or other forms of discrimination in a workplace become so pervasive that they negatively affect an employee or group of employee’s ability to perform their jobs, the workplace may be considered to be a hostile work environment. There is no legal definition of a hostile work environment; a workplace may be considered as such if the mental and emotional anguish of its employees can be reasonably determined to be severe enough to interfere with their ability to work or advance in their careers.
Examples of Pregnancy Discrimination
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects pregnant women and mothers against discrimination in the workplace. They were added as a protected class through the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
The following are examples of discrimination against pregnant women and mothers that are unacceptable in the workplace and may be grounds for a discrimination lawsuit:
- Failing to promote a pregnant woman despite her qualification for the higher position;
- Failing to hire a pregnant woman or a new mother because of her status as a recent or soon-to-be parent;
- Terminating a pregnant woman’s employment for reasons unrelated to her job performance;
- Asking a female interviewee if she has young children or plans to start a family within the next few years;
- Failing to provide reasonable accommodation for pregnant or nursing women; and
- Failing to cover pregnancy-related medical expenses for employees through their health benefits packages. This is explicitly mentioned in RCW 49.60.030.
As with other medical conditions, reasonable accommodations must be offered for pregnant and nursing employees. An example of a reasonable accommodation for a pregnant employee is providing a chair or a stool for an employee whose position requires her to stand for most or all of her shift, such as a cashier. Another type of reasonable accommodation is allowing a nursing employee extra break time to privately use a breast pump.
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, any eligible employee of a covered employer is entitled to twelve weeks of time off work for the birth or adoption of a child with the guarantee that he or she may return to his or her position after the twelve weeks are over. An eligible employee is any person who has been employed with his or her company for the preceding twelve months to his or her requested leave and works at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius.
A covered employer is any of the following:
- Any public agency. This can be a state or federal agency. All government employees are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act regardless of the number of people their agency employs.
- Any public or private school.
- Any private sector employer with 50 or more employees over the course of 20 or more workweeks in the current or immediately preceding year.
Hostile Work Environment Attorneys Can Help
If you’ve experienced discrimination in your workplace or were not hired because of your pregnancy, call HKM Employment Attorneys LLP today at 206-838-2504 to speak with one of our team’s experienced employment lawyers. You’ll have the opportunity to discuss the specific details of your case and work with a knowledgeable attorney toward a productive, fair solution.