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Subtle signs of pregnancy discrimination

Pregnant women have federal protection against discrimination in their employment. Sometimes, however, it can be difficult for a pregnant worker to tell if an employer’s actions constitute discrimination.

Be aware of these four subtle signs that may indicate pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.

Increase in negative feedback

Employees who have a history of positive performance reviews may see a sudden change after their pregnancy becomes known. Pregnant employees should be on the lookout for increased criticism, especially when it does not reflect the quality of work or commitment.

Sudden silence or isolation

If management no longer discusses new projects, planned promotions or promised raises with a pregnant employee, the change could signify pregnancy discrimination. Supervisors and colleagues may begin leaving the pregnant woman out of meetings and important emails.

Unreasonable requirements

Employers must give pregnant women the same access to reasonable accommodations as given to other workers who have disabilities. Examples of such accommodations include flexible work schedules, light-duty and time off for medical appointments. For example, discrimination occurs if the company previously allowed sick employees to work from home but discontinues that policy when a pregnant woman asks to do so because of morning sickness.

Changes in duties

Pregnant employees should pay attention to any significant procedural changes that occur after they announce their pregnancy, especially if the change does not seem to impact other workers. For example, a worker cannot receive a demotion or unwanted change in duties because of pregnancy, as long as they can continue to perform their basic job functions.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission gives workers 180 days to file a federal pregnancy discrimination complaint.


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