The Department of Labor has reported that women account for almost 50% of workers in Virginia and across the country and 85% of women who work will become mothers during the course of their careers. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits employers from discriminating against pregnant employees with regard to any part of employment. Pregnant women may not be discriminated against in hiring, firing, promotions, training, layoffs, fringe benefits or job assignments. Discrimination protections also extend to less-obviously hostile circumstances like negative stereotyping and social isolation.
A study conducted by Baylor University found that pregnancy discrimination in the workplace had a negative effect on the health of both the mother and the baby. It was linked to higher rates of postpartum depression, decreased birth weight, shortened gestational periods and a greater number of doctor visits. The study involved surveys of 252 pregnant workers. Pregnant employees can take steps to avail themselves of the protections in the law, for the health of themselves and their babies.
It’s important to know what the relevant company policies are. Companies cannot discriminate against a person for being pregnant and the law requires employers to prevent biases against pregnant women and the work they can do. Managers and business owners should work to create a culture where discrimination does not happen. Providing flexible schedules for medical care, normalizing workplace breast-pumping and breast-feeding and keeping an open employee dialogue can help create the right environment.
People in Virginia who believe they have been subjected to discrimination in the workplace may want to meet with an attorney. An attorney who has experience practicing employment law might be able to help by examining the facts of the case and identifying behavior or policies that could give rise to legal claims. Parties who win on a claim of workplace discrimination may be entitled to compensation for lost wages or other damages.