If you suspect that you did not receive a job offer, promotion or benefits — or if you believe your employer fired you — because of your pregnancy, you are not alone. Pregnancy discrimination is a prevalent issue and one for which the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has taken considerable measures to combat.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, pregnancy discrimination is a form of sex discrimination that occurs when an employer treats an employee or applicant differently based on her pregnancy status, recent delivery or related conditions. The law does not grant pregnant women special rights. Rather, it only prohibits employers from treating expectant mothers any differently than they would other workers. For example, if an employer is willing to give light-duty work to injured employees, it must do the same for individuals who require such assignments due to pregnancy.
To prove and win a pregnancy discrimination case, you must prove that your employer treated you differently and failed to accommodate you because of your expectant status. To do this, you may rely on both direct and circumstantial evidence.
Direct evidence of pregnancy discrimination
It is rare for subjects of discrimination to have direct evidence of wrongdoing against their employers. Direct evidence would essentially come in the form of an omission of guilt, which is unlikely to happen. It can also come in the form of offhanded comments, such as “I would like to give you the job, but I know that once your baby arrives, you will not be as available to work evenings.” If you have direct evidence of your or a potential employer using your pregnancy as the basis of an employment decision, you will have a much easier time in court.
Circumstantial evidence of discrimination
Even without direct evidence, you may have enough evidence against your employer to prove that he or she acted in a discriminatory manner. To prove discrimination via circumstantial evidence, the facts of your case must suggest that your employer’s actions were, more likely than not, grounded in prejudice. In most cases, building a case using circumstantial evidence involves proving that an employer deviated from its typical practices and policies, and that said deviation came without any practical explanation. Examples of actions that may infer discrimination are as follows:
- Your employer fired you shortly before your due date, and without following its typical termination procedures, such as providing written warnings or a chance to correct performance issues.
- Your employer’s reasoning for terminating your employment does not hold water.
- Your employer’s timing for the adverse action is suspicious. For example, your manager informs you of your termination on the last day before your maternity leave.
Proving pregnancy discrimination without direct evidence can be difficult. However, with the right help, it is possible.