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Going to work each day in California should be a positive experience. One that allows you to use your skills, expand your knowledge and participate in achieving company objectives.

Feeling as though you cannot fully embrace your job because of discrimination can create ongoing and serious problems. Knowing how to react in this situation can help you protect your well-being and your career.

Moving quickly

Discrimination can take on many forms and target lots of personal characteristics. For example, your gender, sexual orientation, age, religious affiliation, ethnic background and disability status could all trigger discriminatory behavior from others. Some examples of discrimination include the following:

  • Isolation from various team exercises
  • Inadequate training or access to resources
  • Threats of harm or physical violence
  • Derogatory remarks about you or your work
  • Withholding benefits, pay or advancement opportunities
  • Unexplained disciplinary actions or termination

If you suspect discriminatory behavior has created a hostile or unsafe work environment for you, immediately take action. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, if the statute of limitations passes, you may not have as effective of an outcome when you file a charge of discrimination.

Awaiting action

Once you file a charge, you should receive an update about your claim in an appropriate period of time. If you file your charge directly through the EEOC portal, you can access information about your case and the status of your claim each time you log in.

If you do not receive timely correspondence and continue to experience discriminatory treatment at work, you may choose to involve an attorney. A legal professional can help you organize the facts of your case to establish your claim and get you the justice you deserve.

For companies that have a minimum of 15 workers, employers must abide by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act. These laws offer many protections to pregnant women, including that bosses cannot fire them for getting pregnant. The laws also state that employers must provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women while at work.

Morning sickness is a natural part of being pregnant. A woman who is dealing with this condition may feel the urge to go to the bathroom frequently. Employers must allow women to go to the bathroom to handle any pregnancy-related issues. An employer is unable to fire a woman or reprimand her for taking more bathroom breaks than anyone else.

Employers can provide accommodations

Morning sickness affects all women differently. Some women may need to vomit once and feel fine while others will feel nauseated for an extended period of time and cannot do anything until the sensation subsides. There are various accommodations employers can provide based on what is best for the woman and what is best for the company.

As an example, the employer can provide the woman with a modified work schedule. Perhaps everyone else works from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but the woman feels nauseated around 8 a.m. on a regular basis. The employer can allow the woman to come into work at 9 a.m. and work until 6 p.m. This is reasonable for both parties and does not punish the woman because she still receives the same number of hours a day.

Employees can use sick leave

For employers, it may be beneficial to remind an employee she has sick leave she can use any time she wants. In the months leading up to a birth, a woman may simply not feel well enough to even go to work, and she should be able to use her sick leave. As long as she is able to perform all work-related tasks, an employer cannot force a woman to begin maternity leave before she is comfortable doing so.

For many people, retirement is a natural stage of life. It provides an opportunity for adults who have worked for years to take time off to travel, enjoy their families more or pursue new activities if they want to.

However, not everyone has the desire to retire. Perhaps you enjoy the work, or you need the income and are capable of performing your job well. You would be fine staying for at least a few more years except that you are feeling excessive pressure to retire. In fact, you may even be feeling harassed despite the fact that, with some exceptions, California employers cannot force their workers to retire. Here are some ways in which employers might pressure employees to leave before they are ready to.

“Jokes” that are really hostility

Your manager or even co-workers might be making jokes about your age or related issues. For example, if you forget a client’s name one day as many people do, the immediate response could be, “Uh-oh! Time to retire if you are forgetting client names all of the sudden,” and be part of a larger pattern.

Constant questions about your plans

If your manager keeps asking things like, “So when do you plan to retire?” or “Still here? When are you retiring?” then that is not okay. The same idea applies to a question such as, “What are your travel plans after you retire?” Asking something along these lines one time is fine. Asking repeatedly even if the questions are couched in a concerned, friendly or joking tone is not.

No more career development talks

Perhaps for most of your working life, you have sat down with your bosses to discuss your career development. You have taken training classes, seminars and the like to keep your skills sharp. However, you have reached a certain age, and all of the sudden, no one seems interested in your career development and in furthering your education. Meanwhile, younger employees continue to get these aspects of the job.

An employee’s pregnancy or the prospect of a pregnancy can cause some employers to behave in a discriminatory manner, even if they do not realize they are doing it. Thus, the question arises: “What is an employer’s obligation to a pregnant worker?” For example, is it better for the employer to simply pretend an employee is not pregnant and to let the employee take the lead on any issues such as time off?

California law requires that almost every employer treat pregnancy and any related conditions as a temporary disability. Pregnant workers should still have protection under federal laws if they work for a nonprofit or religious group, but the employer size needs to be bigger. A lawyer can clarify these issues for a particular situation.

Following the employee’s lead

Some employers think they are doing a pregnant employee a favor by saying something like, “Okay, let’s go ahead and block out this time for your doctor appointments or maternity leave,” but that is not the employer’s place. Instead, employers should let their employees take the lead. Each pregnant person (and each pregnancy) has unique needs and considerations, and employers should not assume they know exactly what a pregnant person needs or wants.

Providing reasonable accommodation

Often, following the employee’s lead means providing reasonable accommodation such as restroom breaks, ergonomic office furniture, telecommuting options, light duty, unpaid leave or disability leave. The employee and employer should confer to determine what works best in that situation. Employers do generally have the right to ask for medical documentation to prove the need for accommodations.

Keeping the job open

If a pregnant person takes time off, the employer usually has the obligation to keep the job available for the person to return to. Unfortunately, too many employees come back to work to find that they have been demoted or transferred or that their job has been diminished in some way.

In a perfect world, all people would treat others with dignity, regardless of sexual orientation. Unfortunately, as you know, we have not yet reached that point. Despite the progress that society has made toward equal rights, countless LGBT people across the country still receive poor treatment by their co-workers and employers. While there are laws in California that are supposed to protect you from discrimination, the reality is far from the ideal.

Workplace harassment for your sexual orientation or gender identity can range from feeling unwelcome or uncomfortable around your co-workers to a hostile and unsafe working environment or even unfair discipline or termination. You might face harassment or discrimination in the following ways:

  • Co-workers might think it is funny to make homophobic jokes or slurs in your presence. While you might be OK with the occasional joke, constant insulting jokes and teasing can contribute to a hostile environment.
  • If you are transgender or undergoing gender reassignment, the people you work with may not be sensitive to how you prefer them to address you, or they may harass you or become aggressive after the change.
  • Others in the workplace may ask you intrusive and inappropriate questions about your orientation or relationship status if you are private about your personal life.
  • Your employers’ and co-workers’ attitudes about you might change after finding out your LGBT status, and your employer could deny you denied benefits, pass you over for a promotion or fire you solely because of your identity.
  • Despite being the best qualified for a job, a manager might not hire you because of your sexual orientation.
  • A co-worker might threaten your safety or physically harm you.

You deserve to be treated like a human being with the same feelings and rights as anyone else, no matter what your sexual orientation or identity is. No one should ever use a person’s orientation as a reason to discriminate, harass or harm.

“It’s not personal, it’s business,” may be a popular motto in the industry, but it is not always legal for employers to follow. The inconveniences of vacation time, sicknesses, medical treatment and maternity leave can cause employers to look for ways to indirectly fire you or get you to quit.

These methods are not legal, of course, but many affected employees do not know this. Sometimes, even employers are clueless, thinking they are just doing right by the business. Either way, if any of these situations are relevant to you, speak to an employment law attorney about protecting your rights.

  • Eliminating your position: Your employer may tell you that your position no longer exists due to restructuring.
  • Demoting you: Because of your absence, you may receive a demotion as a form of discipline, causing you to lose out on your previous pay and benefits. Alternatively, your employer may try to disguise the repositioning as a promotion, sideways move or special job just for you as a way to try to get around the law.
  • Giving your accounts to someone else: If you are a salesperson, someone else may get your accounts while you are away, and you may not get them back upon your return. Having to start over can hurt your success.
  • Hiring a new employee: Someone else may fill your position during your leave and stay in it permanently. This can lead to a demotion for you or an outright termination of employment.
  • Not making accommodations: If you have developed a disability, need to attend frequent doctor visits or pump breastmilk at work, your employer can make things difficult for you in hopes that you will quit on your own. It is important that you know your rights concerning accommodations so you can demand them from your employer instead of looking for a new workplace.

These are only a few examples. LinkedIn shares even more ways your boss may try to phase you out, such as excluding you from important communication and meetings you were once a part of.

If you are currently pregnant, congratulations! There is likely quite a bit on your mind about your life post-baby and how being a new mother will impact returning to work.

If you are choosing to breastfeed your baby, you will need a private place to pump when you are working. What is your employer required to provide in terms of breaks and a space to pump?

Lactation accommodations required by law

Every employer, including the state and any political subdivision, is required to provide a reasonable amount of break time for employees who need to express breast milk. If possible, employees should try to have this time run concurrently with already-provided breaks. Employers are not required to pay for any break that does not run concurrently with authorized rest time.

Rest breaks are defined as a net 10 minutes that begins when you reach the area appropriate for pumping.

Employers are required to make reasonable efforts to provide you with the use of a room or other location, which is not a toilet stall, for breast pumping purposes. This location should be in close proximity to your work area. It can include where you already work if it meets the requirements. For instance, if you have a private office with a door that locks and no windows, or windows that have opaque blinds or curtains, this would be acceptable.

Employer’s obligations

Employers are directed to encourage and support the practice of breastfeeding, and should not ask you to consider formula feeding for their convenience. They also cannot discriminate or retaliate against you because you have chosen to breastfeed.

Failure to provide you with a rest period requires the employer to pay you one additional hour of pay at your regular rate for each workday the rest period is not provided. This is one hour of pay for the workday, not for each missed rest period in a given workday.

If you return to work after your pregnancy and experience resistance, discrimination or retaliation as a result of your choice to breastfeed, talk to an employment attorney well versed in protecting pregnant employees to advocate for your rights.

The only concern you should have when you return to work after a pregnancy is making sure your baby is fed in the manner you have chosen.

Discrimination coming from a superior can make anyone feel unworthy, insulted and worried about his or her job. When the discrimination pertains to pregnancy or a maternity-related issue, the feelings you experience can be even more complex and devastating. Are you somehow less important because you are expecting a child? Does the time you miss due to doctors’ appointments or health issues make your job less relevant? What might happen to your position after you take maternity leave? These are questions that cross the mind of many expectant mothers in California after they experience discrimination related to their pregnancies.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, it is illegal for employers to discriminate against pregnant employees or applicants based on their pregnancies or related issues. Pregnancy discrimination is a form of sex discrimination, but it might be difficult to determine if your employer discriminated against you. The following are some examples of what pregnancy discrimination might look like:

  • A potential employer did not hire you for the sole reason that you are pregnant.
  • You are experiencing complications such as placenta previa and can still work, but you need lighter duties. Instead of adjusting your workload or temporarily reassigning your tasks to someone else, your employer makes frequent comments about how you are inconveniencing the team or you are let go.
  • As your pregnancy progresses and you need to see your doctor more frequently, your employer reprimands you for working fewer hours than your usual schedule.
  • You prepare to return to work after your maternity leave is over and find that your employer terminated you.

You may find it discouraging to try to prove your experience was indeed pregnancy-related discrimination since your employer could make any excuse as to why he or she did not accommodate your needs or fired you. However, you have the right to defend yourself if you believe the poor treatment you received at work was due to your pregnancy.

Pregnancy is an exciting time but it also comes with several fears. Expecting mothers naturally worry about the health of their coming child and their own pregnancy, childbirth and what happens next. For working mothers, pregnancy adds another burden: wondering how the workplace will accept these changes and your upcoming leave of absence.

Most of the time, pregnancy includes health concerns for the expecting mother. In addition to motion sickness and the loss of mobility, there are numerous potential complications and frequent medical check-ups. The only thing that is predictable is that you will have doctor visits. It’s hard to know how you’ll feel each day and how that will affect your work.

Can your workplace punish you for taking too much time off?

A look at pregnancy discrimination

Pregnancy discrimination is illegal. This is good news for expecting mothers because it means you can’t be punished or treated differently. Pregnancy is a protected status, which means that your employer should find you workable accommodations to do your job, such as flexible hours, restrictions on physical duties and more.

When it comes to your own health concerns during the pregnancy, there are two primary considerations. First, a pregnant employee should be treated the same as other employees by law. This means that your company sick leave policy is the first place to look for time off.

California, however, offers additional security through FEHA disability regulations. If you experience pregnancy-related health problems, you may qualify for a medical leave based on your case. Certain high-risk pregnancies qualify for this extra protection.

Approaching a workable solution

Many employers will work with you to find a solution that treats you equally with your coworkers but fits the physical demands of pregnancy. Working later hours in the day to avoid morning sickness or scheduling doctor appoints before or after work hours will show cooperation.

Flexibility is a preferred option, but not every workplace has the same policies. If you feel that your employer is treating you unfairly, consulting with an experienced employment attorney will provide more information about your rights as an expecting mother.

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