Pregnancy discrimination: What Massachusetts workers should know

Although pregnancy and childbirth are sex-related characteristics, employers may hold it against workers, which is why women should know their rights.

Pregnancy and childbirth are characteristics unique to the female sex. As such, this affords certain protections to women in the Massachusetts workforce who become pregnant. Unfortunately, however, some employers may still hold a pregnancy against their workers. In order to protect themselves and their jobs, it is important for female employees to understand their rights.

Protection from adverse job actions

Employers in Massachusetts are prohibited from treating female workers differently because of pregnancy, childbirth or the resulting need for leave. Some of the actions they cannot take include the following:

· Denying employees their right to work

· Unnecessarily restricting workers' job functions

· Refusing to hire women who are pregnant

· Discharging employees from their positions should they become pregnant

If employers take these or other adverse job actions, it may be considered sex discrimination. Consequently, women who are treated unfairly because they are pregnant may choose to file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or otherwise take legal action.

Employment restoration

Most people understand that women may have to take a leave from their jobs prior to or just after giving birth. With few exceptions, Massachusetts must allow workers eight weeks of unpaid parental leave. Upon returning from this leave, male and female employees must be put back in their previous positions. If their prior job is unavailable, they must be restored to a similar position with the same seniority, length of service credit, status and pay as they had before their leave.

Sometimes, women's duties at work may be altered before they give birth to accommodate their conditions. Once returning from maternity leave, female workers in such situations are entitled to be returned to their original status and duties. Non-compliance with employment restoration requirements may be considered a violation of workers' rights.

Pregnancy-related disability

Due to complications and other factors, pregnancy may cause physical or mental impairments for women, which may limit their activities. If pregnancy or childbirth-related conditions temporarily keeps them from performing their job duties, female employees may be considered handicapped under state law. Therefore, they must be afforded the same rights as other disabled workers. This includes being placed on light duty, put on an alternative assignment, or allowed to take disability or maternity leave.

Seeking legal guidance

When pregnant workers in Massachusetts are discriminated against by their employers, it may impede their ability to provide for themselves and their growing families. However, female employees do not have to let such violations of their rights stand. Those who feel they have been treated inappropriately by their workers because of a pregnancy or childbirth may benefit from consulting with a lawyer. An attorney may help them understand their options for pursuing a reinstatement of their employment or financial compensation.

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