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ASK A LAWYER
United States Department of Labor Women's Bureau
Are you being treated unfairly at work because you are pregnant?
Laws against sex discrimination protect pregnant workers and pregnant
women applying for jobs.
ARE ANY OF THESE THINGS HAPPENING TO YOU?
* You aren't hired because you are pregnant?
* You are fired or laid off because you are pregnant?
* You are turned down for a promotion because you are pregnant?
* You are not given benefits for pregnancy because you are not
You are not alone. Thousands of women who are pregnant or new
mothers file charges every year with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission. This is the Federal agency that protects you from job
WHAT THE LAW SAYS
Federal and State laws make sure that Americans are able to have
children without losing their jobs. Discrimination against you
because you are pregnant violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Under this law, employers who have at least 15 workers are not
o Refuse to hire a woman because of pregnancy
o Fire or force a worker to leave because she is pregnant
o Take away credit for previous years, accrued retirement benefits,
or seniority because of maternity leave
o Fire or refuse to hire a woman because she has an abortion
You must be allowed to keep working as long as you are able to do
your job. Your boss cannot make a rule about how long you must stay
out of work before or after childbirth. If your company does not
offer sick leave, then it may be discriminating against pregnant
Your employer must treat you at least as well as he/she treats other
workers who can't do their jobs for a short time. For example, if
your company lets a worker go who had a heart attack or broken leg on
paid or unpaid disability leave, you must also have this right if you
are unable to work because of pregnancy or childbirth. If your
pregnancy stops you from being able to do your job, you have the
right to be given easier duties, if other workers who can't do their
jobs for a short time get this right.
Many States have equal employment opportunity laws that protect
against pregnancy discrimination. In addition, the States of
California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island, and Puerto
Rico also pay partial wages during time off from work for medical
problems, including those of pregnancy. Find out if your State has
this law, which is called "temporary disability insurance." Some
employers, especially larger companies, also offer this type of
insurance. Check your benefits.
HOW MUCH TIME CAN YOU HAVE OFF?
A new law, the Family and Medical Leave Act, gives you added
protections. It went into effect on August 5, 1993. If your doctor
or health care provider says you are sick and unable to work during
your pregnancy, you may be able to get up to 12 weeks off without pay
under this new law. You also are allowed time off for childbirth,
adoption, and to care for a sick child or family member. If you take
time off under this law, you have the right to the same job or a job
with equal pay and benefits when you come back to work. Call the
Women's Bureau at 1-800-827-5335 for a copy of our brochure, Family
and Medical Leave Act: Know Your Rights.
Some States have their own family leave laws that protect your right
to return to your job after time off for pregnancy-related problems
WHAT CAN YOU DO IF YOU ARE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST?
1) Write down what happened. Write down the date, time and place of
the incident, as soon as possible. Include what was said and who was
there. Keep a copy of these notes at home. They will be useful if
you decide to file a complaint with your company or to take legal
2) Get emotional support from friends and family. It can be very
upsetting to feel you have been treated unfairly at work. Take care
of yourself. Think about what you want to do. Get help to do it.
3) Talk to your union representative. Union rules often allow you to
file a grievance. If you don't have a union, call a women's or civil
rights group for help.
4) Talk to your employer. Your company may have an Equal Employment
Opportunity Officer or a way for you to file a "complaint." For
instance, some companies have new ways to resolve problems, like
"mediation." Check your employee handbook for procedures.
5) Find out how other pregnant workers have been treated. Talk to
any women who may have had trouble at work because they were
6) Keep doing a good job and keep a record of your work. Keep copies
at home of your job evaluations and any letters or memos that show
that you do a good job at work. Your boss may criticize your job
performance later on in order to defend his or her discrimination.
7) You have a right to file a charge. The law has a very short time
limit on how long you can wait to file a charge against your company.
You can file a charge even if you do not work for your employer
anymore. You can file a charge with the U. S. Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (EEOC) at 1-800-669-EEOC. Most states and
local governments also have a Human Rights or Civil Rights office
that can help.
8) Find out more about your legal rights. You do not need a lawyer
to file a charge with EEOC. But you may want to talk with a lawyer
who specializes in sex discrimination. The State bar association or
the women's bar association in your area can refer you to lawyers.
They can help you figure out what to do. They know the pros and cons
of different legal actions, including the time and the cost of filing
YOU CAN WIN
Many women have fought discrimination and have improved their work
lives. The first step is to know your rights under the law. Laws
give you and your coworkers the right to start a group or a union to
try to get better treatment at work.
You can also go to court to get back the money you lost because of
discrimination. In 1991, 13,000 pregnant workers collected $66
million in a "class action" lawsuit. The new Civil Rights Act of
1991 gives you the right to be paid money for the hurt and the pain
discrimination caused you.
WHERE TO GET HELP
The Women's Bureau
U.S. Department of Labor
Washington, DC 20210
1-800-827-5335 TDD: 1-800-326-2577
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
1801 L Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20507
1-800-669-EEOC TDD: 1-800-800-3302
WORKING FOR WORKING WOMEN
The Women's Bureau, part of the U. S. Department of Labor, was
created by Congress in 1920. Our job is to research and promote
policies to improve working conditions for women.
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