Are you a victim of pregnancy discrimination?

On behalf of Michael Fox

Pregnancy discrimination occurs all too often, perhaps because of cultural attitudes that are slow to change along with a lack of legal awareness.

Discrimination in the workplace is not always the blatant behavior that is sensationalized in popular culture, but instead is very often the product of subtle biases. For example, a supervisor’s innate bias against people with disabilities is revealed by the continual promotion of lesser qualified individuals instead of a more qualified worker with a disability.

Pregnancy discrimination, although frequently overlooked or ignored, is rampant in workplaces across the country and leaves many women feeling belittled and ashamed at a time when they should be supported, often to the point where they are even uncomfortable announcing their pregnancies, despite the Rights that have been afforded to them. Here is a look at some of the reasons pregnancy discrimination continues to occur.

Lack of legal awareness

The Americans with Disabilities Act was updated in 2008 to cover temporary conditions such as back pain. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission took advantage of that update to put more “bite” into how an older law, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, is interpreted.

The ADA does not cover the condition of pregnancy itself, but with the 2008 update, it did cover employees who had temporary conditions. Thus, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which, in the words of the EEOC, holds that “[w]omen affected by pregnancy or related conditions must be treated in the same manner as other applicants or employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work,” got a huge boost.

However, many employers simply are not aware of what they are legally obligated to do to accommodate pregnant employees. For example, a business may believe that because it is small, it is exempt from ADA and PDA. In fact, these laws apply to any business as long as it has at least 15 employees. Or a business may simply never have had a pregnant employee and thus, did not bother to familiarize itself with its obligations under the ADA and PDA.

An attitude that work and motherhood are incompatible

In theory, women’s rights in the workplace have come full circle as laws have been created to enforce them, but in practice, many of those rights remain a work in progress. The culture in many workplaces remains stuck in bygone eras. Women get asked questions about prioritizing family and work that men never would get asked. When a woman leaves work early to go to a child’s sporting event, she may be seen as hurting the business. Meanwhile, a man who does something similar might be lauded.

In a nutshell, many employers think negatively of pregnant employees. How can she have morning sickness and still perform effectively? Is she distracted? Once she gives birth, will her focus on work disappear? Will she even return to work? Men who are expecting children rarely get the same level of worry or scrutiny from employers; there is an obvious double standard at play.

The subtleties of these situations can make proving pregnancy discrimination in Wisconsin difficult because many cases are not clear-cut. In addition, there are critical deadlines in place for initiating a claim of pregnancy discrimination, so you should have the facts of your case examined by an attorney as soon as possible. The attorneys at Fox & Fox are experienced in these matters and can help those facing (or who have faced) such discrimination explore their options.