You should consider talking to a pregnancy discrimination attorney if you think you have been treated unfairly because of your pregnancy. This type of discrimination violates state and federal law. It can take many forms, such as being denied sick leave, losing career opportunities, or not being hired. You can file a demand letter or a lawsuit against your employer.
What is pregnancy discrimination?
Pregnancy discrimination is treating workers unfavorably because they are pregnant.
There are numerous examples of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, including:
- firing you or laying you off because you got pregnant,
- harassing you because of your pregnancy,
- not promoting you because you are pregnant,
- offering worse compensation, such as pay or fringe benefits, including health insurance, because you are pregnant,
- demoting you,
- not providing reasonable accommodations for your condition, such as light duty work,
- refusing to hire you because you are pregnant or intend to become pregnant,
- not allowing you to take pregnancy leave or sick leave,
- refusing to let you partake in job training,
- not providing lactation breaks so you can pump breast milk, and
- retaliating against you for filing a pregnancy discrimination demand letter or lawsuit.
Pregnancy discrimination violates federal law. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA) amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It added pregnancy to the law’s protected classes.
Other federal laws may provide protections, as well, including the:
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and
- Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.
The ADA, for example, generally requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for qualified workers who have a disability. Pregnant workers frequently have medical conditions that amount to a disability under the Act. If this is the case, your employer has to provide a reasonable accommodation unless it would cause an undue hardship on your employer.
Pregnancy discrimination also violates most state labor laws. These state anti-discrimination laws frequently offer better protections to workers than their federal counterparts. For example, both the ADA and Title VII only apply to employers who have 15 or more employees. Many state laws regarding pregnancy discrimination apply to smaller employers.
When should I talk to a pregnancy discrimination lawyer?
You should consider talking to a lawyer if you suspect that you were treated unfairly because of your pregnancy. Victims of pregnancy discrimination have legal rights. A lawyer can help pregnant women invoke them.
Many employers are unaware that state and federal anti-discrimination laws apply to pregnant workers. Those that are aware may see the costs associated with a pregnant worker as being too high. They may decide that it is worth the risk of discriminating against them, instead.
Particularly early after the unfavorable treatment, the signs that it was discriminatory are often subtle. If you were not hired or were passed over for a promotion, the person who got it may also have been qualified. However, some companies frequently make these employment decisions against pregnant workers. In these cases, it can be a strong sign of discrimination.
If you reach out to a pregnancy discrimination lawyer as soon as you can after the workplace setback, you can invoke your rights. They can investigate your case while the evidence is still fresh.
What can a pregnancy discrimination attorney do for me?
A pregnancy discrimination attorney can help you invoke your workplace rights and protect your professional future.
By talking to an employment attorney from a reputable law firm, you can initiate an investigation into the company’s policies. A lawyer will know how to gather evidence about what happened to you. Depending on the situation, this can include:
- talking with coworkers about their experiences when they were pregnant,
- finding out if not hiring pregnant workers is a company policy or an unspoken practice, and
- looking for other signs of workplace animosity towards pregnant workers.
This can give you the information you need to make an informed decision about whether to proceed with your case.
If you decide to proceed, an attorney can draft a demand letter on your behalf. This letter explains what happened to you. It also demands that your employer stop taking discriminatory actions against you. It goes on to say that, if the discrimination does not stop, you will escalate the situation.
If the demand letter does not resolve the situation, you and your attorney would file a complaint. This complaint would go to:
- the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and/or
- your state’s labor agency.
The agency would then investigate the case. While they investigate, they will facilitate mediation. If mediation does not resolve the dispute, the agency will finalize its investigation and either:
- pursue your case against your employer on your behalf, or
- issue you a right to sue notice.
The right to sue notice allows you to file your discrimination case in state or federal court. Establishing an attorney-client relationship with a lawyer before filing a legal action is essential. Their legal advice can increase the odds of winning a pregnancy discrimination case.
What is the law in California?
California workplace discrimination law protects pregnant workers more than federal law does.
Like federal Title VII, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) forbids sex discrimination and gender discrimination in the workplace. This includes discrimination against female employees on the basis of pregnancy.
To prove that you have been discriminated against because of your pregnancy under the FEHA, you have to show that:
- your employer is subject to the FEHA’s requirements,
- your employer discharged you, refused to hire you, or subjected you to another adverse employment action,
- your pregnancy was a substantial motivating factor for this setback,
- you were harmed, and
- your employer’s conduct was a substantial factor for your suffering.
Importantly, the FEHA applies to most California employers who have more than 5 employees. It also applies to all workers, including:
- full-time employees,
- part-time employees,
- job applicants, and
- unpaid interns.
Like the federal ADA, the FEHA also requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for disabilities caused by your pregnancy. This can include a period of pregnancy leave under the following state and federal laws:
- the California Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDL), which provides up to 4 months of unpaid leave for pregnancy-related conditions,
- the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), which provides a maternity leave of absence of up to 12 weeks after the birth of a child for baby-bonding,
- the California State Disability Insurance (SDI) program, which provides up to:
- 4 weeks of paid leave for pregnancy-related disabilities, and
- 8 weeks of paid leave for baby-bonding; and
- the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provides pregnant employees of large employers with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for serious health conditions, including pregnancy-related medical conditions that amount to a disability.
If your employer discriminates against you based on your pregnancy, you can send a demand letter for them to stop. If that does not resolve the situation, you would escalate the case by filing a complaint with the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) (formerly the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH)).
Because the FEHA provides better protections than Title VII, you would generally proceed under California state employment law. However, this is not always the best option. An employment lawyer can help you decide what is best for your case.
If the CRD complaint does not resolve your case, the next step would be to file an employment discrimination lawsuit against your employer in California Superior Court.
 42 USC 12112.
 42 USC 12112(b)(5)(A).
 42 USC 12111(5).
 42 USC 2000e(b).
 California Government Code 12940 GOV.
 California Government Code 12926(r)(1)(A) GOV.
 California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) No. 2500.
 California Government Code 12926(d) GOV.
 California Government Code 12940(c) GOV.
 California Government Code 12940 GOV.