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3 ways that companies discriminate against pregnant women

Pregnancy can be a joyful, stressful and messy time. A woman expecting a child may experience illness, high blood pressure, sensitivity to smells and physical weakness when compared with her abilities prior to pregnancy.

Most women can recover fully from the trials of pregnancy with proper rest and good medical support, and countless women every year work throughout their entire pregnancy without any sort of complications. Unfortunately, some employers won’t treat pregnant women with the respect they deserve and give them the support that they need during this difficult transitional time.

There are many ways that companies can discriminate against pregnant women, but the following three examples are among the most frequent forms of pregnancy discrimination.

1. Refusing to offer reasonable accommodations on the job

Whether a woman works in an office or a factory, she may need to change some of her job responsibilities during her pregnancy. There may be medical restrictions on how much she can lift or requirements for her to rest a certain amount of time.

Employers typically have the flexibility to accommodate a pregnant worker’s needs, but some companies choose not to do so. For example, they might refuse to let a woman change her position, shift her responsibilities or work from home until after her delivery.

2. The company might permit or even encourage a hostile work environment

Once people find out that a worker is pregnant, they might start making jokes about her health, her appearance, her marriage or even her sexual history. Some managers might also become antagonistic toward pregnant workers, giving them fewer shifts, fewer sales leads or lower-quality job opportunities.

If a company becomes hostile toward or negative about a woman solely because she is pregnant, she may have a hard time staying there until she delivers. 

3. The company may not let her come back easily after maternity leave

Some companies offer paid leave, while others merely allow workers to take their legally-permitted unpaid leave under federal law. Regardless of what form of leave you take, your employer should allow you to come back to work without any penalties or change in job status or compensation.

If your employer tries to demote you, cut your wages or convert you to a part-time employee just because you leave, you may be able to push back against those questionable practices. Standing up for yourself can be difficult because you likely need to protect your job while pregnant.

Remember that speaking up protects not only yourself but every other woman who might eventually find themselves pregnant while working for the same company.