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Is There a Stigma Against Pregnancy in the Workplace?

November 22nd, 2022
stigmas against pregnancy

Even though great strides have been made to improve working conditions for female employees, there is still much work to be done. Recent studies have shown that pregnant women are often treated differently at work because they are expecting. If you are experiencing this kind of treatment, be aware that it is against the law, and rights may have been violated.

About half of the United States workforce is made up of women, and 85 percent of them will become mothers at some point in their careers. A survey by Culture Shift revealed that 12 percent of the respondents had experienced this kind of discrimination, and 21 percent knew others who had faced it.

Another study from South Bank University in London showed that approximately 50 percent of women surveyed felt that taking maternity leaves negatively affected their careers. They claimed they had been the targets of insensitive comments and were judged for taking some time off for maternity appointments.

What Are Examples of Maternity Discrimination?

Maternity discrimination can make expectant working women to feel uncomfortable, leading to feelings of anxiety and depression. Not only can that make them worry about their careers, the emotions can spill over into their personal lives. Examples of workplace maternity discrimination include:

  • Co-workers talking about expectant mothers behind their backs.
  • Not getting invited to company gatherings like meetings or team-building events.
  • Having hours reduced.
  • Not being recognized for high-quality work.
  • Being the target of inappropriate comments.
  • Being forced to work while on maternity leave.
  • Being pressured to resign or being fired.

Other examples might include an employer failing to remove health and safety risks, a refusal of promotion opportunities, and pay reductions.

What Laws Protect Working Women Who Are Pregnant?

Employers are legally bound to treat their employees equally, and this includes not discriminating against pregnant workers. This is also for illnesses related to pregnancy, and it covers new and established employees plus applicants.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) protects expectant mothers from pregnancy discrimination, including discrimination related to childbirth or medical conditions. It applies to hirings, firings, job assignments, promotions, training, pay, paid time off, health insurance, and all other terms and conditions of employment. The PDA also protects pregnant women from rude interpersonal treatment, negative stereotyping, and other subtly hostile behaviors from employers and colleagues.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also protects pregnant working women. It prohibits discrimination based on disabilities, and this includes ones that are related to pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also prohibits pregnancy discrimination.

How Can I Deal With a Pregnancy Stigma at Work?

Since pregnancy discrimination is against the law, you would be within your rights to speak out if you are being mistreated in the ways described above. You might want to confront the harasser privately at first, but this can be difficult. If it does not solve the problem, you might contact your HR Department. Be sure to follow the procedure in your employment manual, document the discrimination and how HR is handling it in writing, and keep your records in a safe place.

The employer has a responsibility to address your concerns, but not all will take the appropriate actions. You may need to file a discrimination charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or reach out to a qualified employment attorney in your area.

Philadelphia Employment Attorneys at The Gold Law Firm P.C. Represent Expectant Mothers in Discrimination Cases

If you are being discriminated against at work because of your pregnancy, contact one of our knowledgeable Philadelphia employment attorneys at The Gold Law Firm P.C. Call us at 215-569-1999 or complete our online form for a free, confidential consultation today. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we assist clients in South Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Lehigh County, and Montgomery County.

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