What To Do If Your Employer Discriminates Against You Because You Are Pregnant
If you work in the Oklahoma City area and have experienced workplace discrimination because of your pregnancy, you should know your rights under the law.
The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978, which is part of the Civil Rights Act, prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy. The PDA protects pregnant workers when it comes to hiring, firing, promotions, pay, job assignments, training, benefits, health insurance and family leave.
Here are some suggested steps if you believe you are experiencing pregnancy discrimination in your workplace.
1. Advise your employer that you are pregnant.
You may be worried about how your employer will respond to the news of your pregnancy, but keeping it a secret is not the best way to ensure fair treatment. If you don’t tell your boss, he or she will eventually hear about it from somebody else or figure out the obvious. Your boss may have a negative response to hearing about your pregnancy third hand. Let your boss learn the good news directly from you.
Also, if you employer is inclined to discriminate against pregnant workers, he could claim that he didn’t know you were pregnant when he fired you. Advising your employer that you are pregnant has the effect of putting your boss on notice that he or she must be careful to avoid pregnancy discrimination.
Besides, your goal is for your employer to make responsible accommodations if you need them. Giving fair warning makes that easier to do.
Many pregnant workers wait until after the first trimester screen to share the news. At that point there is a much lower risk of miscarriage. That may be fine, but make sure your boss is not the last one to know.
When you do tell your employer, don’t mention complications in previous pregnancies or difficulties you had with previous employers regarding pregnancies. That’s just asking for trouble.
2. Maintain your workplace performance.
Pregnancy presents physical, emotional and financial challenges. If you are not careful, your job performance can suffer. The law provides many protections against being terminated because of a pregnancy, but there is little protection against being terminated for poor work.
3. Know your company’s policies.
Make sure you follow company policies and procedures. If there is an employee handbook, read what it says about pregnancy and family leave. If there is no handbook, ask your questions of your boss or human resources department.
For example, there may be paperwork to file for family leave. You can’t just stop showing up one day and call it leave. Your employer may deny your request for reasonable accommodations because you didn’t submit the request the right way.
If you are an employer, it is a good idea to have an attorney review your employment and family leave guidelines. A Texas restaurant had a rule memorialized in its employee handbook that instructed managers to fire employees three months into their pregnancies. That restaurant became the target of a federal enforcement action by the EEOC.
4. Keep a written record.
Keep a written record, similar to a diary or journal, of workplace experiences related to your pregnancy. If you believe discrimination is occurring, record what was said and done, by whom, and who was present. Make a record of the times you speak to your supervisor about your pregnancy — what you said and how your employer responded. In the event of a complaint, a written record carries much more weight than your memory.
5. Create a paper trail.
Submit requests in writing and keep a copy of what you submit. All important requests — such as the request to schedule family leave or a request for light duty or other accommodations per doctor’s orders — should be submitted in writing.
6. File an EEOC Complaint.
If you are being discriminated against and your employer refuses to correct the situation, your next step is to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. You cannot file a lawsuit until you have first filed an EEOC claim.
The EEOC will send a notice to your employer within 10 days. The employer is usually asked to provide a written response to the complaint. The EEOC will then investigate. If it does not believe a violation can be proven, it will issue a Notice-of-Right-To-Sue. That is your go-ahead to file a lawsuit.
7. Talk to an attorney.
You may want to get some advice from an attorney before filing your EEOC complaint. If you have already filed a complaint and have your Notice-Of-Right-To-Sue letter, you need an attorney. Select an attorney with knowledge and experience in employment law.
The attorneys of Hasbrook & Hasbrook have a combined total of more than 75 years of experience representing Oklahoma citizens who have suffered harms and losses due to wrongful termination, employment discrimination, accidents, negligence, abuse, medical malpractice and product liability. Contact us for a free, confidential consultation.
If a lawsuit determines that your employer has discriminated against you due to a pregnancy, you may be entitled to:
- Reinstatement to your job,
- Retroactive reinstatement of seniority and benefits,
- Compelled hiring,
- Compelled promotion,
- Back pay for lost wages, benefits, etc.
- Punitive damages,
- Attorneys’ fees and court costs.