Harmful Expectations for Pregnant Women in the Workplace

Employment Attorneys Serving Workers in New York City and Beyond

Pregnancies can take unexpected tolls on some pregnant women, while having little effect on others. Employers sometimes have harmful expectations for pregnant women in the workplace, and these expectations may result in discrimination. Employees are protected against employment discrimination under federal, state, and local laws. If you suspect that you have suffered from your employer’s harmful expectations during your pregnancy, you should consult the New York City pregnancy discrimination lawyers at Phillips & Associates.

Harmful Expectations for Pregnant Women in the Workplace

More women are working through their pregnancies now than have done so in the past. However, as a pregnant woman, you may still face stigma and harmful expectations in the workplace. Your employer may view you as less competent or might assume that you are irrational. Pregnant women, perhaps especially mothers who are pregnant for a second or subsequent time, also may be stereotyped as warm and may be expected to be more nurturing. Your pregnancy may also cause supervisors to scrutinize your work more closely for mistakes than they scrutinize the work of your peers because they may expect you to make mistakes. You may be forced to take a leave that you do not need or denied opportunities such as mentorship or special training.

An employer’s harmful expectations may give rise to actionable discriminatory behaviors. Discrimination can include any adverse employment action, such as firing, failure to hire, failure to promote, demotion, or disparate pay. For example, if your employer assumes that you will experience pregnancy brain fog, and as a result demotes you to a lower-paying position, this would be pregnancy discrimination. Pregnancy discrimination also can involve being denied a reasonable accommodation, such as light duty or a request not to work with toxic chemicals.

The New York City Human Rights Law

The New York City Human Rights Law prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy. The city law applies to employers with at least four employees and is widely considered to be one of the strongest anti-discrimination laws in the country. Courts are supposed to construe it liberally.

To establish a prima facie case of pregnancy discrimination under the New York City Human Rights Law, your attorney will need to prove that you belonged to the protected class of pregnant women, your employer took an adverse employment action against you, you were qualified for your job, and the adverse employment action took place under circumstances that give rise to an inference of discrimination. Once you establish a prima facie case, the burden shifts to your employer to rebut your claim by showing a valid, non-discriminatory reason for taking the adverse action. If the employer meets that burden, the burden shifts again to you to provide evidence that the employer’s stated reasons were a pretext.

In addition to prohibiting pregnancy discrimination, the city law mandates that your employer provide you with a reasonable accommodation for your pregnancy, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship. Under the city law, your employer should not take any adverse action against you for requesting an accommodation. Failing to provide a reasonable accommodation may constitute discrimination. For example, if you need more frequent rest breaks because of your pregnancy and request an accommodation under the city law, and this would not present an undue hardship, your employer should allow you to take more frequent rest breaks. You may be able to recover damages if it does not provide an accommodation.

However, if you do not need a reasonable accommodation for your pregnancy, your employer should not expect you to change your work duties without consulting you. If, for example, your employer puts you in a back room position that pays less because it believes that you should not be in front of customers while you are pregnant, this would also count as pregnancy discrimination under the city law.

Federal and State Laws

The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It forbids workplace pregnancy discrimination. The New York State Human Rights Law also forbids workplace pregnancy discrimination. Generally, the state law and the federal law provide many of the same protections to pregnant workers. In most cases, the city law provides greater protection than either federal or state laws when it comes to obtaining damages for the discriminatory conduct arising out of an employer’s harmful expectations about pregnancy.

Get Advice from Our New York City Attorneys

If you believe that you have been victimized by harmful expectations for pregnant women in the workplace, you should call Phillips & Associates. Our employment lawyers represent pregnant workers throughout New York City, as well as Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Call us at (866) 530-4330 or complete our online form.

1635 Market St #1600A
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Phone: (215) 315-7694
Fax: (212) 901-2107

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