For some expectant mothers who are working, the fear of losing their jobs is a real one. If you are one of those women, you need to understand what legal protections you have and how you can take action if your employer violates your rights.
Can Your Employer Fire You for Being Pregnant?
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, or PDA, restricts an employer from firing a pregnant employee based on the pregnancy. It is considered to be a form of discrimination. The act also affords you other protections. For instance, your employer cannot force you to take leave if you are physically able and willing to work.
If you do reach a point in your pregnancy in which you cannot work, your employer is required to treat you as if you have a temporary disability. This means that you would have the right to unpaid leave, health benefits, and the ability to use your vacation time. Once you return to work, your employer is required to provide you with modifications if you need them. For instance, if you need to use a special chair while working, your employer has to provide it.
What If Your Employer Does Fire You?
If your employer does fire you for being pregnant, you must be able to prove it. This can be tricky unless your employer flat out states that is the reason for your termination. Otherwise, you will have to rely on other evidence to support your theory that you were terminated because of your pregnancy.
For instance, if your employer has a habit of terminating women who are pregnant, you can point to this as a pattern. You can also rely on your performance reviews. If your employer did not have any problems with your job performance prior to getting pregnant, you can present your evaluations to show that you were considered a good employee prior to your pregnancy.
Your first action should be to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC. The agency is responsible for investigating claims and determining if discrimination did occur. If the agency does find that you were discriminated against and unfairly terminated, it will negotiate a settlement on your behalf. The EEOC can also decide to sue on your behalf.
If the agency chooses not to sue on your behalf or does not conclude its investigation within 180 days of you filing the claim, it has to issue a right-to-sue letter. The letter states that you can file a lawsuit against your employer.
To improve the chances that your employer faces consequences for unfairly terminating you, work with an employment law attorney. An attorney like Banik & Renner can not only help you collect evidence, but provide invaluable advice on how to move forward.