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Pregnancy discrimination at work: Your rights

Sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination in the workplace has dominated national conversations as of late — but there’s another form of discrimination that also affects the ability of women to get ahead: pregnancy discrimination.

Biases against pregnancy aren’t new. Back when married couples on TV had to sleep in separate beds, women used to be routinely required to leave numerous professions once their pregnancies started “showing,” because merely being pregnant in public was somehow scandalous.

These days, the lack of worthwhile maternity leave and the rise of two-income households has made pregnancy a common sight in the workplace. Now, 66 percent of pregnant women are working at any given time.

However, neither changing social expectations nor the Pregnancy Discrimination Act has stopped pregnancy discrimination from being a pervasive problem for American women. To make sure that you understand your rights, here are some things that you should keep in mind if you are pregnant:

Your general right to work

You are entitled to the same right to work as any other individual. An employer can’t refuse to hire you based on your pregnancy. Nor can you be denied a promotion, a desired transfer, a prime job assignment or any fringe benefit based on your pregnancy.

Your right to accommodations

Pregnancy, when you suffer complications — or even the ordinary temporary difficulties that come along with a pregnancy (like nausea or back pain) — has to be treated as a disability. You have the right to request light duty assignments or alternative tasks, leave and any other accommodations that your employer might offer other employees who have a temporary health problem.

Your right against disparate treatment

Your employer can’t single you out because you are pregnant. For example, if a co-worker with a back problem can ask for light duty without a doctor’s note, you should be able to do the same.

If you experience pregnancy discrimination or harassment, don’t hesitate to seek more information about your legal rights. There are protections available.