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Can a worker be discriminated against for being pregnant?

A pregnancy is usually a joyful event in a woman's life. However, for working women who are victims of discrimination based on their pregnancy, this time can be fraught with anxiety and extreme stress. What many in Southern California may not realize is that the topic of pregnancy discrimination is taken seriously by the law and has even been addressed at the national level.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act not only bans discrimination based on pregnancy, but does so in any element of employment. This includes hiring, income, promotions, layoffs or terminations, benefits or job assignments. What exactly is pregnancy discrimination? Discrimination against a woman due to her pregnancy could entail treating that person unfavorably due to their pregnancy, childbirth or a medical issue related to the pregnancy.

Of course, pregnancy may mean that a woman is temporarily unable to perform certain job duties. In these situations, the woman's employer is typically expected to treat the worker in the same way they would treat any other worker who has become temporarily disabled. This could involve providing temporary alternative work for the woman, extending disability leave or unpaid leave, or offering the worker light duty assignments during the time she can't perform her regular job duties.

As with many issues related to employment discrimination, there are often a variety of laws and regulations affecting any given worker's situation. The Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, is often referred to when resolving pregnancy-related employment discrimination conflicts. In addition, the Americans with Disabilities Act may also come into play since some medical conditions, such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes, may be considered disabilities under the ADA. An attorney skilled in bringing resolution to employment discrimination cases may be a trusted resource for a pregnant woman or new mother with legal questions or concerns about equality in the workplace.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Pregnancy Discrimination," accessed Feb. 7, 2016

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