Pregnancy used to be a condition women hid from the public. In some cultures, women still don’t leave the house much once they begin showing. However, our culture has embraced pregnancy as a natural part of life and an aspect of reality for many women. Maternity clothing gets sold in mainstream clothing stores, and federal policies exist to protect pregnant women who want to continue working.
Unfortunately, employers aren’t always as accommodating as expectant mothers might hope they would be. Despite laws intended to protect pregnant women, they often face discrimination at work.
Women can lose their job or a promotion over pregnancy
The company that you work for may accept your request for FMLA leave, only to eventually find a reason to let you go when you come back to your job. They may hire someone else that they want to retain, or they might just claim that you miss too much work or do a worse job now that you have a child.
Experiencing pregnancy discrimination from your employer is stressful and unpleasant, and it can impact your mental health, as well as your work performance.
Many companies won’t hire a visibly pregnant woman
Employers may focus on the fact that a pregnant woman could soon miss work due to her labor and delivery. They may also worry that she won’t be fully invested with the company if hired before the birth of a child. Managers have outdated ideas about what pregnant women can and can’t do at work, leaving them to think of pregnancy as a disability that they don’t want to accommodate.
Although you can hide a pregnancy during early negotiations, it is harder to hide in an interview. If someone told you prior to the interview you were very likely to be hired, only to have the interviewer react with surprise to your pregnancy and then let you know that you weren’t right for the position, that could be a warning sign of discrimination.
So too could any interview questions that reference your pregnancy or potential future pregnancies. Some employers will go so far as to joke about how there are things they can’t ask in an interview in the hope of getting female candidates to talk about their family plans.
Documentation and a pattern of behavior can help build a case
Emails offering you the position that was later rescinded after you arrived pregnant to the interview could absolutely help substantiate a claim of discrimination in the hiring process. It’s also worth attempting to network with other people who have applied with the company or work there in the past. You may encounter other women who found themselves turned away as pregnant applicants or even former employees.
If your employer won’t approve your leave or discriminates against you because you continue working or return to work after your leave, you should keep a record of what managers say and do. Those records can later help you validate claims of discrimination based on your pregnancy.