Discrimination threatens pregnant women's careers, health

Discrimination threatens pregnant women's careers, health

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The writers reviewed thousands of court documents and interviewed dozens of women working in a wide range of jobs. They found numerous cases of women being passed over for pay raises and promotions when they became pregnant, or being fired before they could take maternity leave.

Perhaps the most disturbing were cases of pregnant women forced by employers to continue heavy physical labor, even when they presented a doctor's note stating it could jeopardize their pregnancy. The journalists talked to women in this position who said they had suffered miscarriages, premature labor, and a stillbirth as a result.

It's generally safe to work during pregnancy. But if your job regularly involves heavy lifting, it could be a problem during pregnancy. If you have any doubts, consult with your doctor about how much weight is safe for you to lift while pregnant.

Federal law doesn't always protect pregnant women from discrimination at work. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits employers from treating women differently just because they're pregnant, but only if the company has 15 or more employees. What's more, companies don't have to give special accommodations such as a lighter workload to pregnant women unless they do so for other employees with temporary disabilities.

So how do you deal with unfair and possibly illegal treatment at work while pregnant?

  • Know your state's laws. Many states, and a few cities, have their own pregnancy accommodation laws that are stricter than federal regulations. The National Partnership for Women and Families keeps an updated list of state and local laws on reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers.
  • Talk to someone at work. If you believe you're being treated unfairly, talk to a trusted colleague such as a supervisor, office manager, union representative, or someone in human resources. That might be enough to resolve the problem.
  • Talk to someone outside your company. If you can't resolve the issue at work, contact your local office of the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to help figure out whether you have a legitimate complaint. You can also try contacting an attorney who specializes in employment law. Additionally, Nolo's Employee Rights and Law Center, Equal Rights Advocates (ERA), and 9to5 can provide helpful information.
  • Keep records. Save copies of emails and create a log to keep track of everything that happens and everything that you do to try to solve the problem. This could later be used as evidence.

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