Pregnancy discrimination common among low-wage workers, report finds

Many employers routinely discriminate against pregnant workers, a recent report reveals, despite state and federal laws specifically prohibiting these practices.

According to the report by the National Women's Law Center and A Better Balance, a legal organization that advocates on behalf of workers with families, Researchers found that many employers routinely fail to provide basic accommodations for pregnant workers - even if those same employers routinely accommodate other disabled workers. In addition, employers often fire workers on the basis of pregnancy, even though doing so is against the law.

Discrimination more common among low-wage workers

Women in low-wage occupations face a particularly high risk of pregnancy discrimination, the researchers found. Low-wage employees may be especially vulnerable to pregnancy discrimination because they are more likely to have physically demanding jobs, the explained Emily Martin, vice president of the NWLC.

For example, a cashier who normally works on her feet all day may request accommodation during pregnancy, perhaps in the form of being allowed to sit down while working. If an employer denies this request despite making similar accommodations for workers who are disabled by injury or illness, it may constitute illegal employment discrimination.

Pregnancy discrimination in Michigan

There are two main ways that illegal pregnancy discrimination occurs in the workplace:

  • When an employer makes hiring and firing decisions on the basis of pregnancy.
  • When an employer treats pregnant workers differently than other temporarily disabled employees, such as those who are injured or ill.

Workers in Michigan are protected from both types of pregnancy discrimination under state and federal laws.

Michigan workers protected from pregnancy discrimination

A Michigan law called the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act prohibits employers from discriminating against women on the basis of pregnancy. Additional protections are provided under federal law in the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

These laws make it illegal for Michigan employers to discriminate against pregnant workers in any of the following ways:

  • Hiring and firing decisions. Michigan employers may not make hiring or firing decisions on the basis of pregnancy or related conditions.
  • Promotions and fringe benefits. Pregnant employees in Michigan must be treated in the same manner as other temporarily disabled employees with regard to pay increases, promotions, vacation accrual or other terms of employment.
  • Pregnancy and maternity leave. Employers in Michigan must provide pregnant workers with the same types of accommodations that are available to other temporarily disabled employees.
  • Health insurance. Employer-provided health insurance must provide the same level of coverage for pregnancy-related conditions as for other medical conditions.

Michigan workers who think they have been affected by pregnancy discrimination in the workplace are encouraged to talk with an attorney about the specific circumstances of their situation. A skilled employment discrimination lawyer can help clients understand their legal options and will advocate tirelessly on behalf of the client's interests if the client chooses to move forward with a claim.