Holly Hicks, workplacerantings.com
Pregnancy is supposed to be a joyous, exciting time in the lives of women. Nine months of carrying their son or daughter and caring for them is a big deal and with that brings a lot of stress and worry. The last thing a woman wants to do is add problems at work to that, but unfortunately this is a sad reality that women are being fired, laid off, or refused being hired, promoted or receiving pay raises due to their pregnancy.
In a perfect world, people would be hired based on ability to work without regard to any outside characteristic such as sex, race, orientation, medical problems, hair color, nationality, or because they are pregnant or have kids. However, pregnancy discrimination is a serious problem that women face that only adds to the problem of sexism that is still widespread in society even today.
Pregnancy and the Law
The amendment to the Civil Rights Act added pregnancy as a protected characteristic in 1978: “because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; and women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes.” The Pregnancy Act also makes sure that women are covered on employer’s insurance policies, and that they cannot be punished for going on maternity leave. However, this is still a big problem in the workplace. Most employers do not have pregnancy discrimination in their handbooks. People don’t talk about pregnancy discrimination, and it is hard to provide evidence for especially in cases of not being hired or denied higher pay due to being pregnant.
What You Can Do
Hiding your growing belly is not a successful resolution to preventing yourself against pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. However, if you believe you have been a victim, you must first document and save all evidence that will prove beneficial to your case. If you have witnesses, ask if they want to help you in court if you go to court.
If you have an HR department, contact them and inquire about the steps to take for pregnancy discrimination. Provide them your evidence and ask about the next steps – since this form of discrimination is a protected right in the Civil Rights Act, they are legally required to act. If you do not have an HR department, go to your boss or supervisor and escalate the problem to the next person up until you get some help. If your supervisors or HR department is not any help, you can always contact the EEOC, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and file a charge of discrimination.
You can also call certain hotlines that can answer your questions and provide advice like the 9to5 Job Survival hotline at 1-800-522-0925, or the Equal Rights Advocates number 1-800-839-4ERA for advice on all women’s legal rights. You can also log onto http://www.feminist.org/911/harass.html for a list of hotlines you can call by state, since some state laws may differ.
These resources (and plenty more available online) can help you feel less overwhelmed and alone in your quest for equality. If you are feeling stressed or depressed, you can always talk to someone you trust or seek counseling. Having a baby is hard enough without adding pregnancy discrimination in the workplace to your list. With some persistence you can seek retribution for such sexism.