What Does Pregnancy Discrimination At Work Look Like?

Posted on: 16 December 2019

Pregnancy discrimination at work is a form of gender discrimination that is aimed at expectant mothers and new mothers alike. Despite the fact that the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act has made this kind of discrimination illegal for more than 40 years, it still occurs quite often -- although the exact form it takes may vary from one employer to another.

What does pregnancy discrimination at work look like? Here are some of the most common examples:

1. You tell your boss you are pregnant and get fired the next day.

Before the Pregnancy Discrimination Act came into existence, women had no protection at all from this kind of behavior. In fact, many employers had a "no pregnancy" rule that even forbade female employees from getting pregnant. While companies can no longer be so blatant, many women find themselves not-so-mysteriously out of a job as soon as their manager or boss becomes aware of their condition.

2. Your boss finds out you are pregnant and suddenly your work is deemed inferior.

Some employers still have an unofficial plan to get rid of their pregnant employees. The moment that a woman's pregnancy becomes known, her once-stellar performance reviews suddenly take a turn for the worst. Her manager may find fault with everything she does. Eventually, the "mistakes" add up and she's shown the door under the guise of a legitimate firing.

3. You're treated with patronizing "kid gloves" and denied the right to do your job.

This is an insidious form of gender discrimination because it's always couched as charitable concern for a woman's well-being -- but it's based on stereotypes about a woman's ability to focus on work, her commitment to her career, and even her ability to function while pregnant or as a new mother. A woman might hear things like, "I didn't even consider you for that promotion because of your condition," or "You need to move to desk work right away," even though your condition doesn't affect your ability to work.

4. You're harassed or face demeaning behavior from your boss or co-workers.

Women in male-dominated fields often go through this when they get pregnant. They may be subjected to obscene comments about their pregnancy, told that they are inconveniencing the entire workplace because of their bathroom breaks, and harassed over every accommodation they need. Some women have even been subjected to things like having their supervisor count and time their bathroom breaks while they're pregnant so that they don't "cheat" the company out of time.

Make no mistake about it: Pregnancy discrimination is illegal. If you've experienced any of these things, it may be time to talk to an attorney who handles gender discrimination law.