Studies show pregnancy discrimination can have troubling health effects

Studies show pregnancy discrimination can have troubling health effects

| Aug 14, 2020 | Firm News |

It is unfortunate we continue to live in a world where pregnancy discrimination persists. The health and safety of expectant mothers and their children should be safeguarded, without question. That includes protection from detrimental work situations.

We know pregnancy discrimination is harmful economically. But research also suggests this type of illegal behavior can impact the well-being of a mother and her child in troubling ways.

How discrimination is a health risk

Here are two pieces of research that demonstrate a link between workplace pregnancy discrimination and health.

One study from the University of Washington surveyed hundreds of pregnant workers who held “physically demanding” jobs. About two-thirds said they worried about being stereotyped by coworkers. To compensate, they either hid their pregnancy or did tasks that risked their health and safety. That included standing for long periods or lifting heavy items.

A separate survey from Baylor University measured different health characteristics of pregnant workers and, later, health outcomes for their child. They found that perceived pregnancy discrimination affected not just the mother, but the baby as well. It was linked to higher levels of postpartum depressive symptoms in those women, plus lower birth weights and more doctor visits for their children.

These findings suggest problematic work environments not only encourage pregnancy discrimination, but are ultimately harmful to victims. It is the responsibility of employers to stop this.

Protecting yourself and your child

Georgia does not have any state laws that explicitly address pregnancy discrimination in the workplaces of private employers. However, federal anti-discrimination laws can provide legal protections for pregnant workers, as well as pregnant applicants.

What might pregnancy discrimination look like? Broadly speaking, pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions cannot be the basis for any negative treatment of the employee or applicant. This might include:

  • Firing or demoting someone because they are expecting
  • Choosing not to hire someone because they are pregnant
  • Changing someone’s pay or job assignments unnecessarily based on their pregnancy
  • Not extending the same benefits to a pregnant employee that are offered to others
  • Passing someone over for a promotion because of the pregnancy

The laws around pregnancy discrimination can seem complicated. However, no expectant mother should feel pressured to put their own health – or their baby’s health – at risk because they are worried about their job. If you experience discrimination, you can hold an employer accountable for this illegal behavior.