In the past, women who became pregnant were frequently targets of workplace discrimination. Employers often pushed them out of their jobs by forcing them to resign or firing them outright. This changed in 1978, when Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). The PDA forbade employers from discriminating against pregnant employees at any point of the employment process. Pregnant workers became commonplace, and employers had to quickly adjust to the regulations created by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regarding workplace pregnancy.
However, pregnancy discrimination has not vanished completely. The EEOC has received over 28,000 complaints of pregnancy discrimination in the past seven years. These led the agency to file 44 lawsuits against employers. Employees throughout the U.S. who allege pregnancy discrimination have filed thousands more.
How can employers avoid pregnancy discrimination lawsuits?
Employers must take precautions to avoid pregnancy discrimination lawsuits. Even the perception of pregnancy discrimination could prompt a worker to pursue legal action. Fortunately, there are a few tips that companies can implement to reduce the likelihood of discrimination suits. Employers should:
- Adhere to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act as well as Maryland employment laws
- Treat pregnant employees the same as employees who have temporary disabilities or medical conditions.
- Create or update company policies regarding pregnancy and maternity leave.
- Seek legal counsel from a Maryland employment attorney
- Train managers and other employees regarding pregnancy discrimination
- Keep detailed written records of your interactions with pregnant employees
Pregnancy discrimination suits have long-lasting consequences
Lawsuits can have a long-lasting toll on employers. Not only are they expensive and time-consuming, they can bring a wave of negative press from which some companies never recover. Lawsuits can also sow discord among a company's employees, lowering morale and prompting employees to pick sides. With these consequences looming, employers would be wise to use these tips to prevent workplace discrimination and avoid a pregnancy discrimination suit.