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Pregnancy Discrimination

After I got pregnant, I was fired.   Can they do that?

It is illegal to fire someone because they are pregnant.    The tougher issue is showing that the termination was actually because of the pregnancy.  Sometimes employers will make up a reason because they know that it is illegal to fire someone because they are pregnant in Illinois.

Furthermore, women who are pregnant cannot be adversely affected by work policies based on their pregnancy, childbirth or associated conditions. Pregnancy discrimination may occur in various situations, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, training, and benefits.

Furthermore, employers may not implement policies that are discriminatory against pregnant women on their face. An employer may not discharge or refuse to hire or promote a woman because she is pregnant. However, an employer is further prohibited from implementing policies that discriminate against pregnant women even if those policies benefit the employee. For example, employers may not establish mandatory maternity leave that is unrelated to the employee’s ability to work and employers may not prohibit the employee from returning to work for a predetermined period following childbirth.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has deemed pregnancy discrimination a growing problem. As such, the EEOC recently issued a new guidance on pregnancy discrimination in the workplace that requires “pregnant employees to be treated the same as non-pregnant employees,” and requires accommodations to be provided to pregnant employees that is of equal accommodations provided to non-pregnant employees. Thus, because a pregnant female employee must be treated just as another temporarily disabled employee would be treated, an employer must make reasonable accommodations to allow the employee to perform modified job duties or an alternative work assignment. If neither a modification of job duties or an alternative work assignment is not sufficient, the employer may need to allow the employee to take disability leave or unpaid leave as it would for other employees.

Aside from the aforementioned, the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) adds additional protections to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. In particular, the FMLA provides for additional rights for break times when nursing and allows pregnant employees who meet certain conditions to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave during a twelve month period for childbirth, adoption, serious health conditions, or to take care for a sick child or family member.

It is ultimately unlawful for an employer to differentiate between pregnancy related and other disabilities. Employees who are or were pregnant and feel they are being or have been discriminated against due to their pregnancy should discuss their circumstances with an attorney. Our firm can help employees look into the merits of their case, investigate whether discrimination has occurred.

Does my employer have to accommodate my pregnancy?

Illinois passed a law (PA 98-1050) requiring that employers of any size make reasonable accommodations arising out of pregnancy. The law relates to accommodations while the employee is pregnant, recovering from childbirth, and if the employee is having common medical conditions associated with being pregnant.

Employers must provide reasonable accommodations unless the employer can show an undue hardship. Reasonable accommodations are reasonable, temporary changes that let an individual do the essential functions of a job while pregnant or recovering from childbirth. Employers cannot retaliate against an employee who requests a reasonable accommodation.

In Illinois, the Illinois Department of Human Rights processes employment discrimination claims.

Under federal law, the EEOC enforces the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Notably, the EEOC regards inquiry into whether an applicant intends to become pregnant as evidence of employment discrimination.


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