What to do about pregnancy discrimination

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What to do about pregnancy discrimination

My management forced me out on pregnancy disability at 20 weeks, losing out on 8 weeks of baby bonding time. They refused reasonable accommodations, which had been extended to other injured employees. Seeking advice and possible outcomes

Asked on January 2, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

Speak to an employment law attorney: this may be discrimation, based on the exact facts:
1) Forcing you out on pregnancy disability: what is your job? were you still able to do it safely at 20 weeks? If you could not safely do your job--e.g. due to doctor's orders, due to the nature of the job (lots of climbing ladders; exposure to chemicals or radiation; lifting heavier weights than is safe for you; etc.) then the employer could tell you that you have to go on disability. They do not need to expose you, your child, or themselves to unreasonable risk.
On the hand, if you could still do your job safely then, this may well have been illegal discrimination.
2) Reasonable accommodations: it depends on what the accommodations you wanted were, whether they were in fact reasonable for the employer, and whether they left you able to do the core or important parts of your job. Example: a woman works in a warehouse and a key part of her job is fulfilling orders, which involves carrying weights of up to 30 or 40 pounds (heavier products). Her doctor says that she can't lift over 10 pounds, but there is no way she can do her job if she can only lift 10 pounds. Restricting her weight that much is not a reasonable accommodation, since a reasonable accommodation allows the workers to still do the job. The company is not required to transfer her to a different position.
The above said, IF the employer chose to go above and beyond it's normal obligations and let other disabled (e.g. hurt arm or back) warehouse workers who couldn't lift weights do different jobs, then they should have given the woman the same opportunity: they don't have to treat a pregnant woman better then workers with other disabilities, but can't treat her worse, either. 
So depending on the job and requested accommodation and what exactly was done for other workers requesting the same accommodation, this may or may not be discrimination.
That is why you should consult with an attorney, who can evaluate the specifics of his case.


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