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What does pregnancy discrimination look like?

Pregnancy discrimination has been prohibited under federal law since 1978. This year, important changes providing expanded protections for pregnant and nursing employees take effect. Nonetheless, discrimination against pregnant applicants and employees and new mothers continues.

Pregnancy discrimination doesn’t solely occur while an employee is pregnant. It can occur before someone has even considered starting a family as well as after they return to work after giving birth. These are a few examples of the timeframes in which discrimination can occur, even if it isn’t always easy to identify.

The application and interview process

It’s illegal for those in a position to hire workers to ask whether an applicant is pregnant, anything about their pregnancy or their plans to have children. That’s true even if the applicant asks about maternity leave policies. For example, under the law, they can’t refuse to hire someone who’s visibly pregnant due to this condition. Of course, unless the employer is careless enough to state such intentions aloud or to put them in writing, this kind of discrimination can be hard to prove.

Returning to work

While employers were previously required to provide time and space for a nursing mother to pump milk, the new PUMP Act requires most employers to provide a clean, private area (not a restroom) for new mothers to express breast milk when necessary. Failure to do that is a form of pregnancy-related discrimination.

How expectant and new mothers are treated in the workplace has been shown to affect their and their babies’ health. It’s wise to learn more by speaking with an experienced legal professional so that you know what is and isn’t acceptable under the law – particularly if you believe you’re facing discrimination.