Austin Pregnancy Discrimination Lawyer
What is pregnancy discrimination?
Pregnancy discrimination happens when your employer illegally treats you less favorably because of your pregnancy.
First things first – Congratulations! You are going to have a baby! You are of course excited, so you start to tell everyone at work the great news. Everyone seems to be extremely happy for you, well, almost everyone. Your boss’ demeanor seems off, but you brush it off because you do not want it to ruin your great news. Or, maybe you think you are misinterpreting the reaction.
As time passes, your boss’ behavior does not improve. You feel like something is off, but you cannot put your finger on it. Maybe your boss is just worried about losing you to maternity leave, or maybe there is something more personal going on. Regardless, you decide it is not your business to pry.
But as your boss continues to act weirdly toward you, your curiosity grows. You start to notice your workload is getting lighter and lighter. You also notice that you are not being included in the big projects you used to oversee. Suddenly, you went down the ranks in your boss’ eyes in just a matter of weeks.
After being passed over for a promotion, or demoted, or forced to give up valuable customer accounts, you realize the catalyst for this change: your pregnancy.
Pregnancy discrimination is treating a female employee or applicant unfavorably because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. Pregnancy discrimination is very common and illegal under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).
What are examples of pregnancy discrimination?
The ways in which pregnancy discrimination happens vary. Here are just some examples:
- Fired shortly after announcing you are pregnant
- Unable to perform work tasks because you are pregnant and your boss refuses to accommodate you
- Caseload decreases after announcing you are pregnant
- Forced to return early from maternity leave
- Encouraged not to take maternity leave
- Passed over for promotions because of pregnancy
- Left out of work-related opportunities because of pregnancy
If you are unsure whether what you experienced is pregnancy discrimination, call an attorney to better understand your potential case.
My boss is treating me differently, how do I know this is because I am pregnant?
Discrimination is rarely open and obvious. Most managers know enough not to, for example, admit that they are laying you off because you are pregnant. The law understands this and allows you to prove your case using circumstantial evidence. For example, if your boss starts taking you off long term projects slowly and indefinitely reassigning them to non-pregnant coworkers, or if your boss changes his or her attitude toward you and starts writing you up only after learning you are expecting.
If you notice these changes, talk to an Austin Pregnancy Discrimination lawyer.
Who is responsible for pregnancy discrimination?
Your employer is responsible as long as the company has at least 15 employees. In Texas, your manager cannot be individually liable for pregnancy discrimination, but your company can be.
What if I get fired for filing a pregnancy discrimination case against my boss?
It is illegal to fire someone for coming forward with a complaint. This could be retaliation, which is also illegal. The anti-discrimination laws protect you from such retaliation.
I hope to get promoted, but my boss said I cannot be promoted because I am pregnant. Is this legal?
No, this is not legal. The PDA protects you from all aspects of employment, not just hiring and firing. If you find yourself in this situation, you should book a consultation as soon as possible to look into your pregnancy discrimination case.
I’m pregnant and I want to continue working, but my boss told me no. Is this discrimination?
Probably. If your boss makes you take a leave of absence because you are pregnant and you are otherwise qualified to perform the essentials functions of your job with accommodation, that may be a violation of your pregnancy rights.
I have another two weeks left of maternity leave, but my boss is pressuring me to return sooner. Do I have to return?
Not necessarily. There are at least two other kinds of laws that may apply – the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the FMLA, if you and your employer are covered by it, you are guaranteed 12 weeks of maternity leave. Your boss may not force you to return to work earlier than your 12-week leave. You are covered by the FMLA if you worked at the job for 12 months, you worked at least 1,250 hours during that period, and the company has 50 or more employees in a 75-mile radius. If you are unsure whether you are FMLA eligible, contact an attorney. If the FMLA does not apply, the ADA still might. Again, your next step should be to consult with a Central Texas pregnancy discrimination attorney as soon as possible.
I came back from maternity leave and all of my clients were reassigned, is that legal?
Probably not. The PDA protects you from almost all pregnancy related discrimination. This means that you cannot be discriminated against because you were pregnant. Having your work reassigned to someone else is a potential form of discrimination.
I told my boss I am pregnant and unable to lift heavy packages at work; does she have to accommodate me?
Yes. If your boss refuses to accommodate your pregnancy-related needs, that may also be pregnancy discrimination. A recent Supreme Court case clarified this.
If you are unable to do a part of your job, such as heavy-lifting, your employer must accommodate you if it accommodates other non-pregnant employees in similar situations. Your job is not allowed to fire you or force you to take a leave of absence because you are pregnant, provided you can do the main tasks of the job with or without a reasonable accommodation.
I think I am being discriminated against because I am pregnant, what do I do now?
Take action! The quicker you do something the better. You should talk to a lawyer as soon as possible. You can also report discrimination internally by complaining to a manager or to human resources.
I was fired for being pregnant three weeks ago, can I still proceed with a case?
Yes. Once you decide you want to file a claim, you can file a charge of discrimination with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). You have 300 days from the incident of discrimination to file with the EEOC and 180 days with the TWC.
You should act as soon as possible. Speak up and use your voice!
What kind of compensation can I expect in a pregnancy discrimination case?
What you can recover as damages from your pregnancy discrimination lawsuit depends on the circumstances.
There are three types of damages victims can recover:
- Economic damages: back pay and front pay for missed work and lost benefits
- Compensatory damages: emotional harm and mental anguish suffered as part of the harassment, costs for therapy and other treatment
- Punitive damages: an amount necessary to punish the employer so that such discrimination never happens again
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