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My boss demoted me after I got pregnant. Do I have any recourse?

Question: I have worked at the same company as a bartender for the last five years. I worked my way up so that I was getting the shifts that had the best tips (weekend evenings and closing shifts, generally.) I am now five months pregnant and I am starting to show. My boss has suddenly taken me off those shifts and put me only on lunch shifts—where I make far less money. He did this to the last girl who was pregnant, too. Can he do this?

Answer: In 1964, The Civil Rights Act was codified into federal law. It gave a variety of protections to employees, including protection against discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. In 1978, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was added as an addendum to the Civil Rights Act; it protects against discrimination based on pregnancy.

As a result of the new law, employers may not treat pregnant employees differently than they would treat any other temporarily disabled employee (for example, accommodating an employee with a broken leg). Since you did not ask for the reassignment to accommodate your pregnancy (some women do ask for shifts that are less intense), your employer might be breaking the law.

There are a variety of ways in which the PDA protects pregnant women. One of them includes allowing pregnant women who want to work during their pregnancies to continue to do so if they are capable of performing all the tasks associated with the work. It does not sound like you disclosed to your boss that you are pregnant (you are not required to do so), but that he simply made the changes once it became obvious.

Your boss might argue that you are not capable of working the evening or closing shifts, and if the reason is valid, he may be able to argue that you were not discriminated against. He must, however, have a very compelling explanation for doing so. The fact that he might simply be concerned that you can’t keep up, or that the work is more strenuous, is not a valid reason for such a switch.

Since he also demoted another bartender for what appears to be the same reason, it appears that this may be a pattern. It would be worth consulting an experienced employment law attorney who can more thoroughly examine your case and help you determine whether you have a valid claim.

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