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Pregnancy Discrimination Still a Problem

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on November 23, 2011 3:02 PM

As temperatures drop and holiday cheer increases, some may find themselves trying for a baby. Though it's fun to focus on tiny clothes and pretty nurseries, it's also important to talk about the changing financial situation.

If the mother-to-be works, pregnancy discrimination should be part of that discussion.

Though the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 has been in force for quite some time, pregnancy discrimination is a persistent problem. The number of complaints filed with the EEOC have skyrocketed in recent years, reaching 6,119 in 2010.

Employers seem to forget that rules against sex discrimination apply to pregnant women, explains expert Cynthia Calvert. They have a tendency to believe that pregnant women and mothers won't be able to handle their work.

These types of thoughts, when put into action or voiced aloud, are illegal. Employers aren't allowed to make negative comments about a woman's pregnancy, and they cannot reduce her responsibilities on this basis. They also can't deny a promotion or other benefits, or terminate employment.

Pregnancy is also classified as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which means pregnant women are entitled to reasonable accommodations. Pregnant women are also entitled to any leave or benefit extended to other disabled employees.

Women need to be prepared for pregnancy discrimination--both emotionally and financially. Couples should discuss how they plan to alert a woman's employer, as well as how to handle any negative reactions. They should also discuss the impact of lost hours, and perhaps a lost job. It never hurts to be prepared.

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