Every woman reacts to news of her pregnancy differently. If it was something she planned for and wanted, pregnancy can be very exciting. If it is a surprise, pregnancy can mean financial and medical concerns and a rapid change in her life plans.
Whichever situation you are in, your plans during pregnancy likely depend on your ability to continue supporting yourself. There are federal laws that protect women from discrimination because of pregnancy, so you might assume that you’ll be able to keep your job with no issue.
Unfortunately, women sometimes learn the hard way that employers will engage in discrimination regardless of what the law says. Knowing how to spot the warning signs of pregnancy discrimination can help you stand up against unfair and illegal business practices.
1. The company fires you, cuts your hours or reduces your pay
Notifying your employer of your pregnancy should be a mere formality. You want them to know that you will eventually need a leave of absence and that there could be medical restrictions on what work responsibilities you perform.
Some companies will quickly move to punish a woman for her pregnancy. They might terminate her, demote her, cut her pay, reduce her hours or transfer her to a different shift. When a company takes negative employment action against you shortly after learning about your pregnancy or your request for basic accommodations, that is a big warning sign of potential discrimination.
2. They refuse to work with you regarding pregnancy limitations
The human body undergoes many changes during pregnancy, and the process can be different for each woman. Some expectant mothers have issues with blood pressure or blood sugar. Others may be at risk for Rh factor poisoning.
Limiting how long one stands, reducing how much they lift or even bed rest are common medical responses to pregnancy complications. Your employer should work with you and help you work from home, change your job responsibilities or otherwise shift what you do in your job so that you can continue working throughout your pregnancy. Refusing reasonable accommodations is a common form of discrimination.
3. Not allowing maternity leave or firing those who take it
Although the Family and Medical Leave Act applies to many companies, some employers will still refuse unpaid leave for a new mother. They might fire a woman for requesting it or simply refuse to authorize the leave.
Other employers let a woman take unpaid leave in the hope that she won’t return. They may demote her, cut her hours or terminate her shortly after she comes back from her leave because they already moved someone into her old position.
Unfair treatment because of pregnancy won’t just affect you. It will affect your unborn child and other women who work there in the future as well. Fighting back paves the way for more equitable treatment for everyone.