Under California and federal law, pregnant women are protected from harassment and discrimination. Further, they are entitled to accommodations in their work duties and sometimes schedule to account for the pregnancy and pregnancy-related health issues.

Pregnant women are also entitled to take leave from work for the birth of their child.

An employer may not harass a female employee on the basis of pregnancy, or for getting pregnant. This type of harassment is usually considered both sexual harassment and pregnancy harassment, because comments and behavior are usually directed to one sex specifically. Generally, the unlawful conduct must be considered severe and pervasive to be actionable.

It is also unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a female employee on the basis of pregnancy. An employer may not refuse to hire, demote (or change employment terms), or fire a woman because she is, or is planning on becoming, pregnant.

Depending on the number of employees in your workplace, various state and/or federal laws govern your legal rights with respect to disability leave, returning to work, and benefits relating to pregnancy, childbirth and related conditions. For example, the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act applies only to workplaces with 15 or more employees, as well as all employment agencies, apprenticeship or training programs, and labor organizations. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act applies only to workplaces with five or more employees, as well as all employment agencies, labor organizations, state licensing boards, and state and local governments. Under California law, employers with five or more employees also must provide reasonable accommodations and job-protected disability leave of up to four months for pregnancy, childbirth and related conditions.

The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act provides that employers must treat pregnant employees the same as those who are not pregnant but are similar in their ability or inability to work. The federal Americans with Disabilities Act provides that employees who have impairments that substantially limit a major life activity are entitled to reasonable accommodations unless they create an undue hardship for the employer.

Arbitration Agreements

Some companies try to prevent their employees from going to court when an employment dispute arises. If you have signed an arbitration agreement, you may be forced into a secret arbitration setting, where a private judge, typically paid for by the employer, will decide your case. Depending on the jurisdiction, and on how the arbitration agreement is written, it may not be enforceable. You may have signed an arbitration agreement at the beginning of your employment, or it may be included in an employee handbook. If you think you may be subject to an arbitration agreement, it is important that the attorneys at Andrus Anderson review it to see if it can be challenged.

Seeking Help

In California, an individual who has experienced a violation of their rights must file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) within one year of the conduct or their right to pursue legal action may be forever barred. If you believe you have been the victim of harassment or discrimination because of your pregnancy, please click here to contact us immediately.