The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed lawsuits against two employers, which it says, has recently deprived pregnant employees of their rights under the law. According to a report in Business Management Daily, in the first case, the EEOC says a California dietary supplement company routinely discharged employees once it learned they were pregnant. The company’s practices came to light when a fired worker filed a complaint saying she was fired 10 days after informing the company she was pregnant.

Lawsuits Seek Damages

The second case involves a home health care firm in Wisconsin, which refused to accommodate a pregnant worker’s request for a light-duty assignment. The company apparently offered such light-duty assignments to employees who were injured on the job. But, they refused to accommodate the pregnant worker. Both companies face EEOC lawsuits seeking back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages and injunctive relief. The worker in Wisconsin is also seeking reinstatement.

These lawsuits essentially tell us that the EEOC is serious about pregnancy discrimination and considers it a priority to go after employers who are violating labor laws. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in UPS v. Young that employers who offer light-duty work to injured workers must also offer them to pregnant workers.

What is Pregnancy Discrimination?

Pregnancy discrimination involves treating a woman, be it an applicant or an employee, unfavorably, because of pregnancy, childbirth or a medical condition that is related to pregnancy or childbirth. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment including hiring, firing, salary, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training and benefits.

The law also requires that if a woman is temporarily unable to perform her job due to a medical condition relating to pregnancy or childbirth, the employer must treat her the same way as it does any other temporarily disabled employee. This may include providing light duty, alternative assignments, disability leave or unpaid leave to pregnant employees if it does so for other temporarily disabled employees.

Other impairments resulting from pregnancy such as gestational diabetes may be disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA. An employer, in such cases, may have to provide reasonable accommodation such as leave or other accommodations that allow the pregnant worker to perform her job.

What Steps Can You Take?

If you have experienced any type of pregnancy discrimination, the first step you should take is to bring it to your employer’s attention and give them an opportunity to put an end to it. However, if your employer fails to take any action to protect you, contact the EEOC or the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. File a complaint with one of these agencies. You will need to do so before pursuing a lawsuit against your employer for pregnancy discrimination.

The agencies are responsible for investigating your allegations and determining if they are in fact valid. If they determine that your employer discriminated against you because of pregnancy, childbirth or a related condition, you may be able seek compensation for lost income, pain and suffering and other damages. Contact an experienced Orange County employment discrimination lawyer who will fight for you and help protect your rights every step of the way.