You likely know that employers cannot discriminate against workers based on a variety of protected classes. These include race, sex, age, disability and religious background. They also include pregnancy.
This means that pregnant women benefit from certain legal protections, and you might have known that already. However, many people get fuzzy with the details, and the details matter. So, here are five important things to know about pregnancy discrimination in Indiana.
Pregnant women have rights to fair treatment under both state and federal law
Your rights to fair treatment are guaranteed by more than one law. In fact, there’s more than one federal law that bars employers from unjustly targeting pregnant women. Some of the key laws include:
- The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which outlaws all forms of workplace discrimination based on pregnancy, including hiring, firing, pay, performance reviews, training and job assignments
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which offers federal protection against a variety of actions targeting people with physical or mental handicaps, including conditions caused by pregnancy
- Indiana’s Pregnancy and Childbirth Accommodation guidelines (IC 22-9-12), which ensure you have the right to seek pregnancy accommodations without fear of retaliation
There are some limits and exceptions to these protections
Indiana only recently passed its Pregnancy and Childbirth Accommodation into law. However, this new addition to the law does not require employers to accommodate every request they receive. Instead, the law says that employers have no more or less obligation to honor such requests now than they already had under previously existing laws.
Meanwhile, this section of the law only applies to employers with 15 or more employees, as do the PDA and ADA. Other parts of Indiana’s civil rights laws offer protections to everyone working for employers with six or more employees.
Reasonable accommodations may take many forms
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) identifies a variety of reasonable accommodations pregnant women might need and request. These include:
- Additional bathroom breaks
- Adjusted shifts and work schedules
- Ergonomic adjustments to the workplace
- The reduction or removal of some non-essential job functions
- Permission to work remotely
The reasonableness of any such requests will vary with the job and your medical condition.
Discrimination and harassment also take many forms
Most employers know they cannot hire, fire, pay or withhold work opportunities from people based on their belonging to a protected class. As a result, they tend to discriminate or harass employees in subtler ways and may invent false excuses. Some common forms of discrimination and harassment include:
- Unexpected negative performance reviews
- Involuntary transfers
- The unreasonable refusal of accommodations or light duty
- The fostering of a hostile work environment
The law protects you against these behaviors, but you may need an experienced guide to cut through your employer’s cover story and reveal the underlying truth. The right documentation is crucial.
Studies suggest most pregnancy discrimination claims go unreported
A recent report from the Center for American Progress found that pregnancy discrimination claims to the EEOC rose by nearly 50% between 1997 and 2011. Still, the same report suggested most incidents went unreported. The latest data showed approximately 5,000 claims to the EEOC while studies suggested that employers denied as many as 250,000 requests for pregnancy accommodations. Certainly, it’s possible that the requests were not all reasonable, but the figures suggest the vast majority of women simply accepted unfair treatment.
Putting this information to use
The only way to benefit from this information is to make use of it. To protect your rights, you need to understand them, assert them and stand up against unfair denials.