Does Pregnancy Stigma Exist in the Workplace?
Despite numerous laws banning pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, pregnant employees continue to report varying degrees of harassment and stigmatization. In fact, according to the most available Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and other government-run entities’ filings and data, more than 50,000 claims related to pregnancy discrimination were submitted in the last decade.
Recognizing signs of pregnant worker discrimination can be challenging at times. While some types of discrimination are obvious, others are more subtle. This is why many pregnant employees turn to employment lawyers to help them determine if they have potential pregnancy discrimination cases against their employers.
What Does Pregnancy Stigma and Discrimination Look Like?
The broadest possible definition of pregnancy discrimination is discrimination against a pregnant individual or a recently pregnant individual. The discrimination can be pervasive, feeling built into the culture of an organization. It may come directly from a single person, such as a manager or co-worker. Alternatively, it might appear in several forms over the course of the worker’s pregnancy, maternity leave, and return to the job.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed in 1978 to tackle pregnancy discrimination, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 touches upon pregnancy stigma. Unfortunately, even with these regulations and laws in place, plenty of pregnant workers say that they have experienced discrimination because they were carrying a child.
In one study of workers who were pregnant, around one-quarter of those surveyed said they were so concerned about being treated unfairly that they withheld news about their pregnancies out of fear.
What Are Some Examples of Pregnancy Discrimination?
There is no one kind of pregnancy discrimination. For that reason, the examples of pregnancy discrimination are quite widespread and all-encompassing.
- Being inappropriately touched by colleagues, especially in the abdominal area.
- Being skipped over for promotions.
- Being forced to leave.
- Being told that they cannot have temporary accommodations, such as being able to sit in a chair instead of standing.
- Being called out for stereotypical “pregnant person” attributes, such as postpartum depression, inflexibility, lack of commitment, or mood swings.
- Being denied employment despite having posted qualifications.
- Being offered lower salaries than are offered to male counterparts performing the same roles.
- Being taken off of prime job assignments.
- Being overlooked for coaching, training, mentoring, and professional development opportunities.
What Are the Effects of Work-Based Pregnancy Stigma?
A workplace that allows known pregnancy discrimination to continue can become emotionally toxic and stressful for both pregnant workers and the teammates who support them. Not only is pregnancy discrimination unlawful and unethical, but it can cause long-term health problems for pregnant employees and their babies.
One piece of research from Baylor University uncovered a correlation between pregnancy discrimination in the workplace and a host of unwelcome physical and mental symptoms for mother and child. These symptoms ran the gamut from lowered birth weight and higher risk of postpartum responses to increased need for doctor appointments.
What Should Pregnant Workers Who Experience On-the-Job Bias Do?
If you or someone you love experiences job-related pregnancy discrimination, you can take a few steps. First, get in touch with someone in the human resources or personnel department. Ask for a copy of the employer’s pregnancy discrimination policy. Be aware that some companies are more forthcoming than others.
Next, keep track of any discriminatory or biased infractions, discussions, or messages. Never delete Slack pings or emails, and keep all handwritten notes. It is easier to make a case against an employer with documentation.
Finally, speak with an employment lawyer. Employment attorneys have the background to advise you on your rights as an employee. Above all else, you legally deserve to be treated fairly no matter what your medical condition.
Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Hold Employers Who Allow Pregnancy Discrimination Responsible
Did you or someone you care about experience pregnancy discrimination, stigma, or bias on the job? Call our Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. at 215-574-0600 or fill out our online contact form. Our team has an office in Philadelphia and our attorneys handle employment law cases in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.