Attorney Advice |
September 11, 2018

American Workplace and the Prevalence of Pregnancy Discrimination

How common is pregnancy discrimination in large corporations in California and across the country? While many companies have taken steps to improve their benefits for pregnant women in the workplace over the last decade, female employees continue to suffer work-related consequences when they decide to get pregnant. For many women, filing a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit seems unlikely to produce meaningful results, and as such pregnancy discrimination may be drastically underreported.

According to a recent article in The New York Times, “throughout the American workplace, pregnancy discrimination remains widespread.” Indeed, “it can start as soon as a woman is showing, and it often lasts through her early years as a mother.”

Large Corporations in the U.S. Cited for Pregnancy Discrimination

While employers both small and large may face pregnancy discrimination complaints when female employees do not receive promotions or are terminated from their jobs, the recent article discusses a particular pattern of pregnancy-related discrimination in “many of the country’s largest and most prestigious companies.” A wide variety of materials—including court documents, public records, and interviews with current and former employees of these corporations—suggest that larger companies in the U.S. “still systematically sideline pregnant women.”

Large employers have faced pregnancy discrimination claims from women at varying levels of employment. Indeed, “tens of thousands of women have taken legal action alleging pregnancy discrimination.” What are some of the most notable employers on that list? The list includes but is not limited to:

  • Walmart;
  • Merck;
  • AT&T;
  • Whole Foods;
  • 21st Century Fox;
  • KPMG;
  • Novartis;
  • Glencore; and
  • Morrison & Foerster.

Based on a 2014 study conducted by researchers at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, having a child cuts a woman’s hourly wages over the course of her employment by 4%, while men’s earnings increase by 6% on average after they become fathers.

Defining Pregnancy Discrimination in the American Workplace

What does pregnancy discrimination look like in the American workplace? As the article explains, this type of discrimination can take different forms. In jobs that require physical labor, pregnancy-related discrimination tends to be more overt. When women work office jobs in various professional fields, however, “the discrimination can be more subtle.” Regardless, in any type of employment, women can be passed over for promotions, can be denied employment, and can be terminated as a result of being pregnant at work, taking pregnancy leave, or experiencing a pregnancy-related disability.

Under California law, women are protected from pregnancy discrimination at many different levels, from job applicants to seasoned employees. In the state, women are protected from pregnancy discrimination when they are pregnant in the workplace, but also in the months or even years after a woman employee gives birth. Employees in California are protected against pregnancy-related discrimination by the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as by the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).

If you have questions about filing a pregnancy discrimination claim, or if you need assistance handling a case brought by an employee, you should discuss your case with an experienced California workplace discrimination attorney. Contact Minnis & Smallets LLP today.