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Can pregnancy threaten your career opportunities?

You’re excitedly anticipating the newest member of your family, but your company may not feel the same way. A pregnant employee may decrease output, and your employer knows that parental leave will deprive them of your knowledge and work potential.

Unfortunately, anticipation of production loss can cause companies to illegally discriminate against pregnant employees. What does this discrimination look like, and what are your rights?

Pregnancy discrimination

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees due to pregnancy, pregnancy related conditions or anticipated pregnancy.

Pregnancy is considered a “protected status” under US employment law. It ranks alongside traits such as sex, gender and sexual orientation that legally cannot be discriminated against. A company may not fire you, fail to hire you, deprive you of a promotion or withhold benefits due to your familial status.

Right to work

Pregnancy places strain on your body. If you are temporarily unable to complete your customary work tasks, your employer is obligated to provide you with the same considerations as a temporarily disabled employee. Therefore, they must accommodate your condition as long as it does not bring undue hardship to the company. They can modify your work tasks, provide alternative assignments or grant leave.

You may be passionate about your career, and want to continue working as long as you can. If you want to work, your employer cannot prevent you from doing so as long as you are able to complete necessary work tasks.

Health care expenses

Pregnancy comes with a multitude of doctor visits and potential medications to protect your health and the health of your baby. Your employer must provide medical insurance for pregnancy-related conditions on the same basis that they do for other medical conditions. Additionally, pregnancy-related expenses must be given the same consideration as other reimbursed medical expenses.

Freedom from harassment

Your employer and your fellow employees may not harass you, make threatening statements or create a hostile work environment due to your pregnancy.

If you believe that your coworkers or supervisor are treating you differently due to your pregnancy, address the issue immediately. Speak to your supervisor, or Human Resources, about the problem and see if they rectify the negative behavior.

Document all instances of discrimination in detail: include the date, the names of the involved persons and the names of any witnesses to the discriminatory behavior. This information could be important if you choose to sue for discrimination.

Consider contacting an attorney who can evaluate your case and advise you on your options. Your personal decision to have a family should not impact your career opportunities.

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