Increase in Pregnancy Discrimination Claims Over Last Year
Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported a recent increase in pregnancy discrimination claims filed by employees with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The WSJ noted a 14% increase in pregnancy filings last year, with a total of 5,587. This figure was up 40% from a decade ago and was the biggest annual increase in 13 years.
These statistics confirm that despite the effort of many companies to create the appearance that they appreciate working mothers, a significant bias against pregnant women persists in the workplace. Employers, in an effort to avoid the perceived hassle of maternity leave and doctor’s visits that will continue even after birth, may find it easier to simply terminate pregnant women, in blatant disregard of the law that protects women against pregnancy discrimination. Discrimination against working mothers, referred to as “gender plus” discrimination, is also prohibited by the relevant human rights laws.
While merely being pregnant does not guarantee an employee’s position, an employer may not take adverse action against a woman if the action is motivated by the pregnancy. Since there will never be a “smoking gun” proving employment discrimination, employees asserting a pregnancy discrimination claim will rely on circumstantial evidence.