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Pregnant employees: Know your rights

Just a few months ago, an ex-employee won a lawsuit against a Chipotle restaurant chain for pregnancy discrimination. The employee was denied adequate bathroom and water breaks and was not permitted to leave in time to make a doctor's appointment. She left for the prenatal appointment anyway, and was fired. While she eventually won over half a million dollars in the lawsuit, for a time she was both out of a job and expecting a child who would need that financial support.

These cases remain all too common, especially among low-wage workers. No matter what industry you're in, you have workplace rights when it comes to pregnancy (although the size of the company may affect them). Let's take a look at some of them below. 

  • Pregnancy is considered a temporary medical disability, which means you should be treated the same as any other employee with a medical condition
  • You have the right to your benefits, any leave (such as for medical appointments) or temporary disability insurance at the same level that they're provided to other employees with medical conditions or disabilities
  • Your employer can't make you go on leave before you want to--as long as you can fulfill your job requirements, it's your right to be there
  • You can't be fired, denied a promotion or harassed because you are pregnant
  • Pregnancy benefits and protections apply to both unmarried and married women, so don't let anyone tell you otherwise

In addition, in California employers with five or more employees are required to "reasonably accommodate" pregnant workers if they request a change, such as performing less strenuous or less dangerous work.

If you're worried about your current situation and think you could be facing discrimination, one of the best things you can do is to start taking notes. Write down any negative comments or conversations you've had -did you have any witnesses? Talk to coworkers to see if they've gone through any unfair treatment while pregnant. And try talking to your employer; your manager may be the one who's making life difficult, so reach out to your HR department if you have one.

It's unfortunate that employees have to do the work when employers ignore the law, but it's a fact of life. If you've been fired because you're expecting a baby, don't hesitate to contact a lawyer who'll work on your behalf.

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