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What is pregnancy discrimination?

Applying for a new job can be stressful. Whether it is for a career change, advancement or just a change in environment, individuals of all backgrounds go through the application process. However, when females are seeking new employment, she may not be properly assessed. In other words, the fact that she is female may not be positively looked at. Even more so, when a female applicant is pregnant, this could be used against her in the hiring process, giving rise to the concern of discrimination.

What is pregnancy discrimination? In simple terms, it is when a female applicant is not hired or an employee is terminated, reassigned, docked pay or denied benefits based on the fact that she is pregnant. Four decades ago, civil rights laws were amended to cover pregnant women. Therefore, employers are required to allow pregnant women the same leaves of absences afforded to an employee on leave for an illness or disability.

Although the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 provides for these rights in hopes of preventing discrimination, this piece of legislation has not stood up very well over time. For starters, this does not apply to businesses that have fewer than 15 employees. Additionally, there are various loopholes in the legislation. For example, employers are not required to accommodate a pregnant woman's need to sit down more or use the bathroom more frequently. Additionally, they are not required to provide a private area to pump milk following the birth of the baby.

Although federal laws to fill in these gaps have not passed at this time, states across the nation have stepped up to fill in these voids. In fact, 23 states have pregnancy laws in place, with five of them enacted within the past five years. The goal of these laws is to not only protect pregnant women but also ensure that they are reasonably accommodated during and after their pregnancy.

If a pregnant woman believes that she has been discriminated against because of her pregnancy, it is important to understand the state and federal laws that apply in the matter. Additionally, it is crucial to understand how best to address the matter, such as filing an action to protect one's rights and to seek damages for harms suffered.

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