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Unless it has been medically documented, pregnancy discrimination is particularly difficult to prove. Most employers will generally not take a pregnant woman’s word unless she has a letter from a doctor or was previously hospitalized. However, what happens when a pregnant woman suddenly becomes nauseous at work? What happens if she needs to vomit, or is not feeling well enough to sit at a desk for a prolonged period of time? In these instances, an employer can easily claim that the pregnant woman was simply not doing her job or displaying a bad attitude.
Pregnancy Discrimination In Detail
How Do You Prove Pregnancy Discrimination?
More than 3,100 cases of pregnancy discrimination were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2017, but that figure is skewed as many women are reluctant to ask for the protections they are entitled to. Pregnancy discrimination is an illegal form of sex discrimination. Pregnancy discrimination occurs anytime an employer treats a job applicant or employee differently because of their pregnancy or pregnancy related conditions.
Instances of pregnancy discrimination can occur at any point throughout the employment relationship, all the way from hiring to firing. Simply put, it is illegal to refuse to hire a person because she is pregnant. It is also illegal to assign, promote, demote, or fire someone based on their pregnancy.
This doesn’t mean a pregnant woman has any special rights. The law isn’t concerned with creating situations that benefit one person over another. These laws are only intended to prevent an employer from treating pregnant employees differently than other employees.
For example, if an employer offers a lighter assignment to another employee with a temporary disability, the employer must also give lighter duty assignments to any employee temporarily unable to perform their usual job duties because of pregnancy.
In order to successfully pursue a pregnancy discrimination claim, you need to prove that you were treated differently than other employees in similar situations as your own. However, the difference in the way you were treated must be because of your pregnancy.
There is more than one way to prove pregnancy discrimination, but the burden will always be the same: you must provide evidence that shows it’s more likely than not that your employer took action against you because you were pregnant.
In some cases, a pregnant employee does have direct evidence of discrimination. Instances of direct evidence basically mean that an employer is admitting to acting with discriminatory intent. For example, if your employer told you that your pregnancy played a crucial role in a decision it took against you, you will have a much stronger case.
Let’s consider the following example. Say that you work for a telecommunications company and were denied a promotion. Your manager explained that he wanted to give you the job, but he figured you wouldn’t want to work the extra hours because you had a baby on the way. Such an admission would count as direct proof of discrimination.
Direct evidence is rare to come by, and an employee who believes they were the victim of pregnancy discrimination will likely have to resort to circumstantial evidence to build a claim.
You may not have direct evidence to support your pregnancy discrimination claim, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t enough evidence to allow a judge or jury to infer pregnancy discrimination.
In order to successfully prove pregnancy discrimination by circumstantial evidence, all the facts of your specific case, when taken together, must make it seem more likely than not that discrimination was the real reason behind the action your employer took against you.
Circumstantial evidence typically consists of proof that your employer didn’t follow its own practices or policies, that it acted in a way that doesn’t make logical business sense, or that it changed its behavior. Unless your employer can provide a reason for the change in policy it took, illogical or inconsistent management decisions made after you became pregnant could create an inference of pregnancy discrimination.
Unlike other protected characteristics, such as age and race, pregnancy is temporary. If an employer treated you differently immediately after learning that you were pregnant, that could also lead to an inference of discrimination.
Common examples of pregnancy discrimination:
If you have made up your mind to take action, it is important to work with an attorney that specializes in cases like yours. The pregnancy discrimination lawyers at West Coast Employment Lawyers have extensive experience handling pregnancy discrimination cases. We will work tirelessly to gather the facts, find and interview eyewitnesses, hire experts, and fight for your rights.
We work on a contingency basis, which means we only get attorney’s fees if we are able to recover for you. Our legal team is available 24/7 and will take care of your case from start to finish. For a free no-obligation consultation with a pregnancy discrimination attorney in California, contact our office at 1-800-247-9235.