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3 ways Rhode Island employers may discriminate against pregnant women

On Behalf of | Feb 8, 2024 | Employment Law

Working while pregnant can be a challenge. As women approach their due dates, they may have major limitations on what job functions they can perform. They may not be able to remain on their feet for multiple hours like most other adults can and may be subject to strict lifting limitations as well.

Those experiencing pregnancy complications, like preeclampsia, could be subject to even stricter medical limitations. However, many pregnant women are able to stay on the job and perform their responsibilities admirably until they leave for the birth of their child.

Unfortunately, employers sometimes treat pregnant workers differently despite federal and state laws protecting them from discrimination. The following are some of the most common ways that employers in Rhode Island discriminate against pregnant women.

Refusing to provide reasonable accommodations

As previously mentioned, pregnancy often comes with a host of complications that can limit what job functions a woman performs. Most employers can work around those limitations and help keep a woman on the job for as long as possible. Sadly, some companies choose not to do so. They may refuse to let a woman work from home or change her job functions during pregnancy. Refusing to provide reasonable support for a pregnant worker is a type of discrimination.

Choosing not to hire or promote pregnant workers

Successful career women often find that their employers treat them differently once they announce their pregnancies. Pregnant workers may have a harder time securing new jobs and advancement opportunities. Companies should not consider a woman’s medical condition, including pregnancy, when making decisions about who to hire, fire or promote.

Punishing new mothers for taking leave

Some companies are more generous than others. They offer paid maternity leave. A woman could potentially take several weeks or even several months away from her job without suffering any major financial setbacks. Other companies do not offer any form of paid leave. However, if they are large enough, then the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may apply. The FMLA grants employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave both for personal medical challenges or for the birth of a child.

Companies should allow a woman to take leave after the birth of her child and should not penalize her when she returns to her job. She should be able to return to the same position or a similar one with the same pay. Some companies find excuses to fire women while on unpaid leave or shortly after they return to work. Others might demote a woman who takes FMLA leave after the birth of a child.

These types of discrimination can lead to major career and financial setbacks when a woman is often responsible for far more expenses than she previously had to manage. Filing an internal complaint or a lawsuit could be an appropriate response to workplace pregnancy discrimination in Rhode Island.