Not every pregnancy is the same, with a host of genetic and environmental factors playing a role in the outcome. If a person has a difficult pregnancy, they can, in theory, avail themselves of the protections provided by state and federal anti-discrimination law so they retain their job and seniority.
However, some employers can take the opportunity to discriminate against pregnant employees, particularly if their pregnancy is complicated. If this happens to you, know that you have the right to contact the appropriate authorities and seek compensation for this unfair treatment. It’s imperative for employers to know how to treat pregnant workers in a non-discriminatory manner.
No Discrimination of Any Kind
Both federal and South Carolina law prohibit discrimination against any person on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, or any medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. This prohibition applies not only to hiring and firing, but to any other aspect of employment as well, including job assignments, promotions, training, or benefits like paid leave. The law prohibits negative employment action for discriminatory reasons, but also harassment of a person based on any kind of pregnancy-related characteristic.
That said, the law also holds that pregnant workers should be permitted to continue working as long as they’re able to perform the functions of their jobs—an employer may not unilaterally demand they stop working. Essentially, the pregnant worker is the best judge of their ability to work, and the employer doesn’t have the right to arbitrarily insist they cease coming to work prematurely. If reasonable accommodations are necessary, they should be provided if possible, but the employee must ask for them first.
Pregnancy as Temporary Disability
The most important point to keep in mind with regard to pregnancy discrimination is that the law views pregnancy as a temporary disability. If an employee is pregnant, they must be treated the same way as any other temporarily disabled employee. For example, someone who requires crutches after injuring an ankle is entitled to reasonable accommodations (if requested, and if the accommodations are not an undue burden to the employer), so a pregnant person must be as well.
Something that many employers don’t remember is that in addition to pregnancy in general, certain medical conditions that occur as a result of pregnancy may also qualify as temporary disabilities. Gestational diabetes and preeclampsia are two of the most common, either of which can seriously endanger the health of the pregnant person if not taken seriously. Federal disability discrimination law requires accommodation if the employee’s condition is a covered disability (unless it would be an undue burden for the employer to provide it).
Contact a South Carolina Employment Discrimination Attorney
It’s imperative for employers to know how to treat pregnant workers in a non-discriminatory manner. Having a child should be a joyous occasion, but it can easily become fraught with complications both physical and environmental. You shouldn’t have to worry about your job while trying to focus on your health and expanding your family.
If you believe you’ve experienced discrimination based on your pregnancy or conditions stemming from your pregnancy, contact a South Carolina employment discrimination attorney at the firm of Hitchcock & Potts today. Attorney A. Christopher Potts has been handling these cases for many years and is ready to assist you with yours. Contact our offices today to schedule a consultation.