Recognizing Pregnancy Discrimination During a Hiring Process
Because pregnant employees can be entitled to parental leave in addition to protected leave guaranteed by the Oregon Family Leave Act, some employers will inappropriately discriminate against pregnant women during the interviewing and hiring process. In some cases, employers may decline to hire someone based on the perception that they may soon become pregnant.
You may be experiencing pregnancy discrimination during a hiring process if:
- The employer directly asks if you are pregnant. Though it is discouraged, it is not against federal law to bluntly ask if someone is pregnant. However, you are not required to disclose any pregnancy. If your pregnancy is already showing, this question can be a major warning sign that a prospective employer is writing you off as a result of your pregnancy.
- The employer asks about whether you are married or want a family. Because it is also illegal to discriminate on the basis of marital status or perceived marital status, most employers will know better than to ask if you are married. It is possible that you could be asked if you are married indirectly (if you have a ring, the interviewer may “casually” ask when you got married or when your wedding is). This could lead to additional “small talk” questions about whether you want a family. The interviewer may be attempting to determine whether you may already be pregnant or may soon become pregnant.
- The employer asks if you will need accommodations to do the job if your pregnancy is obvious. If your pregnancy is readily apparent, your interviewer may ask about what types of accommodations that you will need if you are hired. While they may be asking in earnest, asking this question during an interview can point to possible pregnancy discrimination if the interviewer is trying to assess whether your pregnancy will be too much of an inconvenience.
Recognizing pregnancy discrimination during an interview process is not always easy. Our Portland pregnancy discrimination attorneys can work with you to determine whether pregnancy discrimination may have occurred and help you explore your legal options.
Recognizing Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace
In many situations, pregnancy discrimination in the workplace is open and shut, especially if it is creating an apparent hostile working environment. Other types of pregnancy discrimination can be harder to spot but are no less harmful.
Examples of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace include:
- Your employer unjustifiably refuses to provide reasonable accommodations. Oregon law mandates that pregnant employees and workers that have recently given childbirth be given sufficient breaks to lactate. All other reasonable accommodation requests can only be denied if your employer can prove why the accommodations represent an undue hardship.
- Your employer heavily implies you should not request accommodations or leave. Your employer cannot insinuate that you cannot take legally protected leave or that you cannot exercise your right to request accommodations. If your pregnancy advances and you begin to receive comments that you will “still be expected to pull your weight” or “will not be getting any special treatment,” you are likely experiencing pregnancy discrimination.
- Your employer retaliates against you for requesting accommodations or taking leave. You cannot be fired, disciplined, demoted, or otherwise face any type of adverse action as a result of your exercising your legal rights. If you take protected leave, your employer must allow you to return to your job at the same rate of pay.
- You are subject to unwanted comments or touching. Colleagues and supervisors do not have a right to touch your “baby bump” or make inappropriate comments about your pregnancy. This extends to comments about your ability to “keep up” as your pregnancy advances or in the weeks after childbirth.
- You are passed over for promotions because of your pregnancy or perceived pregnancy. Employers will sometimes decide not to promote an employee because they are currently pregnant and will consequently soon take leave. This can also occur if an employee has been recently married and the employer suspects they will soon become pregnant (or suspects that they are already pregnant and not disclosing it).
- You are wrongfully terminated as a result of your pregnancy or perceived pregnancy. An employer cannot fire you because you become pregnant or because they believe that you may soon become pregnant. If your work performance has remained satisfactory but you are abruptly filed after getting married or disclosing a pregnancy, you may have been terminated on discriminatory grounds.
Filing a Pregnancy Discrimination Claim
Because many forms of pregnancy discrimination involve retaliation or wrongful termination, internal company procedures for addressing discrimination claims are unlikely to be helpful. Human relations departments will work to protect the company instead of protecting you.
If you believe that you have been discriminated against on the basis of your pregnancy or perceived pregnancy, you can choose to file a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or Oregon’s Bureau of Labor & Industries (BOLI). These agencies investigate and work to resolve discrimination complaints at the federal and state level, respectively.
You will have up to 300 days from the date of the most recent pregnancy discrimination incident to pursue a claim with the EEOC. You will have up to 5 years to file a claim with BOLI unless your claim exclusively involves failure to provide pregnancy accommodations. In these situations, each situation must be evaluated to determine the time you have to initiate a claim with BOLI or file in court. Depending on when the event(s) took place, the statute of limitation could be much shorter, which is why it's important to contact a qualified attorney to discuss your rights.
Both agencies will investigate your claims of pregnancy discrimination and determine whether there is sufficient evidence to request that your employer participate in settlement negotiations. Should settlement negotiations fail, EEOC and BOLI can choose to file a lawsuit against your employer. If EEOC or BOLI feels there is not sufficient evidence of pregnancy discrimination or they decline to litigate, you will have the right to file your own lawsuit against your employer within 90 days of the decision.
Our Portland pregnancy discrimination lawyers at Bullman Law Firm can help you explore all of your legal options when you have been discriminated against in the workplace or denied reasonable accommodations. We are committed to helping Oregon workers fight mistreatment and will do everything possible to assist you with your claim.