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Understanding pregnancy discrimination

The workplace is filled with a wide array of individuals. They differ by gender, age, race, national origin, religion and even sexual orientation. Laws protect a diverse work environment as well as allowing a person to not be hired, harassed, terminated or mistreated because of a protected characteristic. While some of these characteristics are obvious, some are not as apparent, such as when a female employee becomes pregnant and even decides to take an FMLA leave. If this employee suffers any harassment or discrimination because of her pregnancy or taking a maternity leave, this could be considered pregnancy discrimination, giving rise to a legal action against an employer.

According to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, it is unlawful to discriminate an employee based on her pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of her employment. This includes hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, fringe benefits and any other term or condition related to employment.

In addition to being protected against discrimination during pregnancy, a female employee is also protected if her pregnancy has resulted in temporary disability. This means that she is unable to perform her job due to a medical condition that is related to pregnancy or childbirth. When this occurs, an employer is required to treat her as they would any employee temporarily disabled. An employer might have to provide light duties, modify assignments, provide disability leave or unpaid leave. Failure to do so could also be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Finally, a pregnant employee is protected against harassment in the workplace as it relates to her pregnancy. These acts are illegal, and if harassment is so frequent or severe, this could create a hostile or offensive work environment. It is illegal to harass an employee based on her pregnancy; thus, this could give rise to a legal action.

When employees believe that they are victims of workplace discrimination, this could result in employment litigation. These matters could get complex and sensitive; therefore, it is important that an employee is aware of the process, their options and how best to further his or her action.

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