Pregnancy discrimination is the action of discriminating against a woman because she is or could become pregnant. It may take several different forms, including a hiring manager not making a hire because of a pregnancy, a demotion or dismissal because of a pregnancy, or the failure to get a promotion. Pregnancy discrimination is a type of sexual discrimination. Although it is based on a specific situation, it is still illegal in the United States and many other countries, and women who feel they have been victimized by the practice could have a legal recourse.
In some cases, pregnancy discrimination may be subtle and not involve a termination or refusal to hire. For example, if a woman takes medical leave because of a pregnancy and inability to work during the pregnancy, a supervisor cannot force her to get a doctor's note unless one is required of every employee taking family and medical leave for any reason. If a woman is forced to take extra steps to take leave because of a pregnancy, that would most likely be discrimination.
If a woman believes she may be the victim of pregnancy discrimination, she may have a number of options. The first option may be to file an appeal or grievance within her company, if the company has such a procedure in place. Even companies that do not have specific procedures in place may informally consider whether an employee has committed pregnancy discrimination in the hopes of avoiding a possible lawsuit in the future.
In circumstances where the woman has tried to deal directly with the company, or feels approaching the company would do little good, then she may seek a legal solution. In the United States, that solution could be in state or federal civil court because some states may have laws similar to the federal statutes on gender discrimination. The attorney will prepare the case, gathering as much information as possible from the client and those involved with the company through the issuance of subpoenas. The plaintiff and defendant may request a trial by judge or jury, in most cases.
To avoid accusations of pregnancy discrimination, a company should take care to do several things. First, those conducting interviews should make sure they do not ask about pregnancy or plans related to pregnancy. Second, the company should make pregnancy health benefits available to all employees, whether they are married or single. Also, pregnancy benefits must be offered at the same level as other health benefits. If a pregnant employee is being terminated for demoted for poor performance, that decline in performance should be documented over time, in case an accusation is made.