Although anti-discrimination employment laws have evolved through past decades, many people are still mistreated at work, including pregnant women. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) specifies that it is illegal to treat employees differently based on their age, race, marital status, and many other categories, including the person’s sex. This last category includes pregnancy; if a company treats a pregnant worker differently because of her condition, this is illegal sex discrimination.
A company cannot refuse to hire a woman because she is pregnant, nor can they fire her for this reason. Her pregnancy cannot influence workplace decisions that relate to promotions, demotions, or work assignments. The NJLAD also specifies that employers must make reasonable accommodations for these workers, such as physical modifications to the workplace. For example, a pregnant employee might need to sit instead of stand while performing her work-related duties.
There are various ways to prove this type of discrimination, and the burden of proof is the employee’s responsibility. There needs to be evidence, and it can be circumstantial or direct. If the employer did not explain the reason for discriminatory actions, the employee needs to prepare their case by seeking indirect or circumstantial evidence. If the company acted in an unusual way after the worker revealed her pregnancy, this could be a red flag. She may have been demoted or had hours cut without a logical explanation. In these cases, looking into how other pregnant workers were treated in the past would be helpful.
Investigating how other employees were treated for poor job performance is also an option. For example, a male coworker was repeatedly late to work, even after a manager gave him a warning, but returned to work without an issue. However, if a pregnant worker at the same firm was also late to work, but instead she was fired, this would be an issue. Employers can also give unjust reasons for terminating pregnant employees, such as unfair accusations of poor job performance. It is also illegal to fire a pregnant employee after questioning her about her plans to return to work after childbirth.
In certain cases, the employer admits their wrongdoing. Many companies still believe that women should stay at home after having babies and voice these opinions. This is not as common as circumstantial evidence, but it does happen.
Women facing workplace pregnancy discrimination should take immediate action. Employees can file a complaint with a state agency via the Division on Civil Rights (DCR). Once the complaint is filed, the DCR will investigate. If they determine probable cause, there may be a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge. A final order will eventually be issued by the DCR Director. Depending on the circumstances, the employee may choose to accept a severance package from the company, or they may want to initiate legal proceedings.
Employees that are starting or expanding families should never have to experience pregnancy discrimination at work. If your job is at risk or if you were fired illegally, we can help. Contact an Eatontown employment discrimination lawyer at Fox & Melofchik, L.L.C. today by calling us at 732-493-9400 or complete an online form for a free consultation.
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