Pregnancy discrimination

What is pregnancy discrimination?

An employer cannot discriminate against an employee for becoming pregnant. You may have reason to be suspicious if your employer reprimands you, cuts your pay, changes your duties or work schedule, or fires you in the weeks following the disclosure of your pregnancy, shortly before your maternity leave is about to begin, or shortly after you return from maternity leave. Important evidence of pregnancy discrimination often includes comments indicating that the employer is unhappy about the situation, such as that the employee’s maternity leave comes “at a bad time” and will cause hardship to the company or other employees, or that that getting pregnant was somehow “inconsiderate” or “unprofessional.”

The physical limitations of pregnancy (even when backed up by a doctor’s note) do not automatically excuse you from performing the essential functions of your job. The employer may be allowed to fire you legally if your medical restrictions prohibit you from performing any part of your job that is truly important over an extended period of time. However, the employer must make reasonable accommodations for such limitations (for example, by giving you “light duty”) to the same extent they would for an employee who was temporarily disabled for reasons other than pregnancy (say, as the result of a car accident or a work-related injury).  The idea is that the employer can’t treat your restrictions more harshly just because they result from pregnancy.