For many women, finding out they are pregnant is a time of joy and celebration. They look forward to the future and expanding of their families. The last thing on their minds should be whether or not they will lose their jobs, simply because they are pregnant.
As one recent story goes to show though, some women do end up having to worry about pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. Even though there are laws in place in California to protect women from being treated unfairly, some still do run into issues and decide to take legal action against their employers.
In a recent case, according to a class-action discrimination lawsuit filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court, a 31-year-old woman was put on maternity leave during her pregnancy. This leave ends in May, but her baby is not due until July.
Reading this, one may wonder just why her employer had her take maternity leave while only around four months pregnant, only to plan a return before her due date.
According to the 31-year-old sales associate, her obstetrician had recommended she not lift anything weighing more than 15 pounds or climb on ladders while pregnant. Doing the responsible thing, she shared this information with her employer. Hearing this, she was put on “light duty” for eight weeks.
After the eight weeks, considering she was still pregnant, she asked for an extension on the “light duty.” Her employer denied her this and she was put on unpaid medical leave for four months. This means she is scheduled to come back from maternity leave, while still pregnant.
Attorneys for the woman claim her employer’s reaction is a violation of California’s state law. As mentioned, a class-action discrimination lawsuit has been filed.
In general though, this case speaks to the larger issue of pregnancy discrimination. While the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act is supposed to stop employers from discriminating against a pregnant employee, there are still cases where employers are unwilling to make what one would consider reasonable accommodations.
These cases are surely frustrating, especially to a pregnant woman and her family. However, employees should know they have rights and that speaking with an employment law attorney may be the next logical step when discrimination is suspected.
Source: Los Angeles Times, “Lawsuit: Forced on maternity leave, forced to return before baby is due,” Robin Abcarian, April 16, 2014