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Understanding the four forms of pregnancy discrimination

Having a child is a joyous experience; often one a woman likes to share with those around them. Because pregnancy lasts roughly 9 months, most women maintain their jobs throughout their pregnancy. While this is commonplace and many employers in Iowa and elsewhere are used to employing pregnant workers, some pregnant women discover that they are mistreated, harassed or discriminated against based on the fact that they are currently pregnant.

No matter how shocking and unexpected the situation, females pregnant in the workplace are not always treated well. While this does not always reach the point of harassment or discrimination, it is important to note that when the lines are crossed and what rights one has in these matters. This is why it is important to understand the four forms of pregnancy discrimination a woman could experience in the workplace.

The first is pregnancy discrimination with work advancement. Although pregnant women are a protected class by the EEOC, almost 31,000 women filed a discrimination action between 2011 and 2015. For those filed in 2014, 18 percent of the claims asserted discrimination for refusing to hire or promote a pregnant women or firing an employee for being pregnant.

The second is pregnancy discrimination and harassment, which occurs when anything negative is talked about regarding an employee's pregnancy or how they became pregnant. Harassment can come from an employer, co-worker or even clients and customers. The third form is pregnancy discrimination and maternity leave. Because FMLA protects a woman's right to take up to 12 weeks for maternity leave, if this is not provided or there are consequences for taking the leave, this constitutes discrimination.

The final form is pregnancy discrimination and short-term disability. Not all pregnancies are easy and go as planned. A woman could experience complications and health issues, requiring them to take time off from work for short-term disability. However, this is a protected act, and if a woman is discriminated for exercising this right or is later demoted or fired for taking short-term disability before her maternity leave, this constitutes discrimination.

An expecting mother expects to experience the ups and downs of pregnancy symptoms, not discrimination in the workplace. However, just because it is not anticipated does not mean that it does not occur. By understanding how pregnancy discrimination looks, women can take a stand to protect their rights and interests. This could also help them recover compensation in a legal action for the damages suffered.

Source: THeglasshammer.com, "4 Types of Discrimination Mothers Face (and What to Do)," Sarah Landrum, Sept. 13, 2017

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