When women want to start a family, having their employer’s support can be an important factor in the decision. Knowing you can follow doctor’s orders for light work, bed rest, or other pregnancy-related restrictions is crucial. But even at progressive women’s health organizations like Planned Parenthood employees face pregnancy discrimination when they try to do what is right for their babies.
In this blog post I will review a report that Planned Parenthood employees face pregnancy discrimination at work. I will review the federal laws that protect pregnant employees and discuss options available if your employer punishes you for having a child or pressures you to return to work before you are medically able.
Pregnancy discrimination can happen anywhere, from the largest corporation to the smallest non-profit. But when the New York Times recently published an article about how Planned Parenthood employees face pregnancy discrimination, some were struck by the hypocrisy.
The article featured employees like Ta’Lisa Hairston, who worked for the Planned Parenthood clinic in White Plains, New York. Hairston’s pregnancy resulted in high blood pressure causing her nurse to direct her to take it easy and take frequent breaks. But managers at the women’s reproductive health facility ignored Hairston’s pregnancy-related medical restrictions. They continued to force her to work long hours without breaks, often working through lunch. Hairston told the New York Times:
“I had to hold back tears talking to pregnant women, telling them to take care of their pregnancies when I couldn’t take care of mine,” she said. “It made me jealous.”
Hairston wasn’t the only one forced to ignore doctors’ orders. Planned Parenthood employees face pregnancy discrimination across the country, the article claims. It describes managers passing over pregnant women for promotions or job opportunities. It tells the stories of pregnant mothers forced to work long hours, or being afraid to take time off for fear of losing their jobs.
Pregnancy discrimination is especially common in non-profit organizations and small businesses that operate on tight bottom lines. Employers blame the cost of paid parental leave and of hiring temporary replacements for mothers on unpaid maternity leave. Often, when a new mother is ready to return to work, she finds she has already been replaced.
Judit Rigo was an employee of Natera, which offers genetic testing for pregnant women. Leading up to her maternity leave, she trained another, less senior employee, to fill in for her. She told the New York Times that when she was ready to come back, that junior employee was now her boss.
Just because this behavior is common, doesn’t mean there is nothing to be done. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act protects employees faced with choosing between their family or their job.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 makes it illegal for employers to treat women differently because they are pregnant, have recently had child, or are suffer pregnancy-related medical concerns. Employers are prohibited from considering a woman’s pregnancy in employment decisions like:
Even if a woman isn’t pregnant, if she has been passed over or treated worse because an employer expects her to have children, she may still have a claim under federal law.
When employees face pregnancy discrimination, they are entitled to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or file a lawsuit in federal court. In either case, the employee may be able to receive:
For many new mothers, the idea of facing their employer in court can be overwhelming. With the new responsibilities involved in caring for your baby, you may not be able to put energy toward fighting back against pregnancy discrimination. But you don’t have to fight alone.
At Eisenberg & Baum, LLP, our employment discrimination attorneys are here to help. We will review your case and guide you through considering your options, from an informal letter to your employer to a full federal lawsuit. Whether you work for a large company, small business, or non-profit entity like Planned Parenthood, we will help you meet your goals and get back to work. If you are facing pregnancy discrimination, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.