pregnancy worker

3 Common Examples of Workplace Pregnancy Discrimination

By Tom McKinney
NJ Employment Attorney

It may be surprising, but workplace discrimination and harassment still occur in 2022, even after the #MeToo movement. 

Federal laws prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on certain protected classifications and characteristics. These classifications include a prohibition against discriminating based on an employee’s pregnancy.

Like other forms of discrimination, discrimination against pregnant employees or employees who are trying to become pregnant is not always easy to detect. It can take many forms, including any negative employment action, from lowering your pay to terminating your employment. 

Some of the common forms that pregnancy discrimination can take include:

1. Termination Without Cause

Like most other states, New Jersey is an at-will employment state. This means that your employer can fire you at any time, with or without prior notice. But this right is not unlimited, and it cannot be used in a discriminatory fashion. Your employer cannot fire you because you have become pregnant or are trying to conceive.

If you receive your termination notice shortly after notifying your employer of your pregnancy, you may be the victim of unlawful discrimination. The same holds true if you have recently started trying to conceive through any means and have been terminated.

2. Your Employer Reduced Your Hours or Changed Your Schedule

Discrimination can take on many forms and does not always include overt comments or drastic actions such as the termination of your employment. 

It can also involve smaller, yet equally troubling, adverse employment decisions. This includes reducing your hours, placing you on less competitive shifts, or otherwise stymying your professional development.

Any changes to your hours or work schedule as a result of your pregnancy should be done after consulting with you. It is not discrimination if you and your employer mutually agree that you should take a less-demanding workload. 

However, if these changes are thrust upon you suddenly after you announce your pregnancy, discrimination may be the reason.

3. Unwelcome Jokes or Comments

Even if your workload and schedule remain unchanged after you tell your employer of your pregnancy, your employer may still discriminate by allowing or encouraging disparaging remarks about your pregnancy. These can include jokes and comments that make you feel uncomfortable or create a hostile work environment.

Since you are familiar with your workplace culture, you are in the best position to know whether comments are good-natured needling or whether they cross the line into discrimination. If you request that your employer stop making or permitting such comments and nothing changes, speak to an attorney about potential discrimination.

Other Adverse Employment Actions

Other examples of pregnancy discrimination can include a reduction in pay, a demotion or removal from supervisory positions, poor performance reviews, and other adverse employment actions. While not every adverse action is motivated by discriminatory intent, those taken into consideration of your pregnancy are illegal.

Consequences of Pregnancy Discrimination

If you suffered any economic loss or other harm because of pregnancy discrimination, a claim or lawsuit could help you recover the wages you lost and opportunities you were denied. The nature and amount of any compensation you recover will depend on the type and effects of the discrimination you experienced.

Get in Contact with an Experienced New Jersey Employment Lawyer Today

If you suspect you are the victim of pregnancy discrimination, you only have a limited amount of time to exercise your legal rights. Contact NJ Employment Lawyers, LLC, and enlist the help of our experienced employment law attorneys.

Our team can investigate the circumstances surrounding your adverse employment action and help you obtain justice for any unlawful discrimination you experienced.

About the Author
Tom McKinney is a skilled employment law attorney with New Jersey Employment Lawyers LLC. He has a track record of success in all areas of employment law, including sexual harassment, discrimination, harassment, wrongful discharge, whistleblower claims and hostile work environment claims. Besides litigation, Tom handles severance agreements and severance package reviews/negotiations for over 100 people each year. If you have any questions regarding this blog, contact Tom here.