For an expectant mother, pregnancy should be a time when physical and emotional stressors are limited to ensure for the health and wellbeing of both mother and unborn child. Many expecting mothers experience complications during their pregnancies that may warrant a doctor to order restrictions on certain activities such as lifting or standing. In some cases, a woman's attempts to follow her doctor's orders result in her experiencing job discrimination and even wrongful termination.
For numerous short-sighted reasons, pregnant women are still regularly discriminated against in the American workplace. This seems like a particularly odd form of discrimination given that pregnancy is temporary and the majority of pregnant women require few reasonable accommodations, if any.
When female employees become pregnant, federal and state laws protect their jobs under most circumstances. Female employees are generally protected from pregnancy discrimination in the workplace in numerous forms including retaliation and wrongful termination. But what if female workers return to work after maternity leave only to be retaliated against or wrongfully terminated for pumping breast milk at work? Because the workers are no longer pregnant, is this treatment considered illegal pregnancy discrimination? What if employers allow workers to pump breast milk but only in locations characterized by unsanitary conditions? Is this illegal pregnancy discrimination?
Pregnancy discrimination can take many forms. Women can be denied job security if they take maternity leave, they may be passed over for promotions or other opportunities for choosing to have children or they may be denied reasonable accommodations that will enable them to do their jobs throughout their pregnancies. At its heart, pregnancy discrimination is a form of gender discrimination. A recent lawsuit questions whether men seeking equitable paternity leave are also victims of gender discrimination.