The fact that pregnant workers are often subject to discrimination in the workplace is no surprise to most people. However, retaliation against pregnant workers is less well-known. It can be just as damaging as discrimination, though.
Under state and federal law, workplace discrimination and retaliation involve “adverse employment action.” This can include firing or demoting workers, changing their job duties or schedule to something worse, or negatively and concretely affecting their employment. The difference is that discrimination occurs because of protected characteristics, such as gender. In contrast, retaliation occurs because of protected actions like taking protected leave.
If you’ve struggled with your employer after becoming pregnant, you might be facing retaliation in addition to discrimination. Below, we explain four lesser-known types of retaliatory employment actions against people and what you can do to get help and fair employment.
4 Lesser-Known Signs of Retaliation Against Pregnant Employees
As a pregnant person, you have a variety of employment rights under laws like the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDLL). These laws allow you to take time off work for things like medical appointments, temporary disability, and parental leave. They also permit you to request temporary modifications to your job duties if necessary to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
Requesting accommodations or taking medical, parental, or disability leave are protected actions. If your employer takes adverse employment actions against you as a result, it has committed retaliation. Four serious but lesser-known examples of pregnancy-related retaliation include:
1. Having Medical Appointment Leave Denied
Under US law, you can take unpaid medical leave as long as you meet a few criteria. If your employer is covered by the CFRA and you’ve worked for them for at least 1250 hours over the past twelve months, you likely qualify. Eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave over a rolling 12-month period to care for a serious health condition. This includes taking time off work to attend medical appointments related to pregnancy.
If you qualify, your employer cannot deny you reasonable requested leave. A reasonable request must be:
- Related to care for a pregnancy or serious health condition
- Made at least 30 days before leave is necessary, if possible
- If 30 days’ notice isn’t practicable, a request must be made as soon as possible
If you meet these criteria and your employer denies your request for medical time off, they are violating federal employment law, and you may be experiencing retaliation.
2. Having Job Duties Altered Involuntarily
Federal and state laws now treat pregnancy similarly to disabilities and other health conditions. One of the key requirements within the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is that disabled workers are granted reasonable accommodations for their health conditions but otherwise treated equally to other employees. For example, a cashier who cannot stand for long periods must be provided a stool. However, the employer cannot transfer them to a different department just because of their disability.
The same is true for pregnant people under the PWFA. You may request reasonable accommodations while expecting, such as temporary alterations to your duties or an altered work schedule. However, as long as you can perform the basic tasks of your job, your employer cannot change your responsibilities just because you’re pregnant or requested unrelated accommodations.
3. Receiving Poor Work Evaluations
You have the right to protected leave and reasonable accommodations while pregnant. Your employer cannot take these items into account when evaluating your work. Examples of unlawful retaliatory work evaluations include:
- Counting your protected leave time as days missed under company disciplinary attendance policies.
- Comparing your output and results to those of people who did not take medical leave without adjusting for the time you were gone.
- Describing requests for accommodations as making you “difficult to work with” and lowering your evaluation score because of it.
Even an evaluation that doesn’t directly reference your pregnancy can be retaliatory. If you get a particularly negative review after your pregnancy leave despite years of good reviews, it may be considered retaliation.
4. Being Made Redundant
Most employers know they can’t fire workers just because they become pregnant or request leave and accommodations. However, pregnancy does not make you immune to layoffs and redundancies. Some employers attempt to get around disability and medical leave protections by labeling disabled or pregnant workers “redundant” during other layoffs.
You have not necessarily experienced retaliation because you’re made redundant and laid off after requesting or taking leave. However, if you’re terminated after experiencing other instances of retaliation or discrimination, you may have a strong wrongful termination case.
How to Get Help With Ending Pregnancy Retaliation
The last thing you need as an expecting or new parent is to fight your employer over fair treatment. However, it may be necessary if the company treats you poorly because you exercised your right to accommodations or protected leave.
The best way to get started is by getting help. You can contact the experienced pregnancy retaliation and discrimination attorneys at Le Clerc & Le Clerc LLP. We are prepared to help you build your case against your employer by:
- Demonstrating your need for accommodations or leave. We can help prove your health needs by getting doctors’ notes, medical records, and expert witness testimony.
- Gathering evidence of retaliation: We will use our decades of experience and knowledge to demonstrate how your termination, negative evaluation, denied leave, or altered duties constitute retaliatory behavior.
- Handling negotiations with your employer: Many cases never go to trial and settle instead. We work to help you achieve the best possible settlement with your employer.
- Representing you in court if necessary: Our skilled trial attorneys are prepared to litigate your case if your employer refuses to negotiate.
Don’t let your employer’s bad behavior ruin your career and finances. Schedule your consultation with our pregnancy discrimination law firm to discuss how we can help you take a stand against unjust discrimination in the workplace.