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Pregnancy discrimination still a problem in the workplace

New York residents may be dismayed to learn that discrimination against pregnant employees remains widespread even though federal and state laws exist that are intended to protect them. This discrimination might range from firing employees who say that they are pregnant to refusing accommodations such as lighter duties or a stool to sit on.

One woman filed a lawsuit against a nonprofit organization after she was fired when she became pregnant. The organization works with disabled individuals, and the company claimed that the patients, the woman and her unborn child would be unsafe. However, the organization admitted that there was no medical reason she could not continue in her regular job. The organization was ordered to pay her $50,000 in damages and about $25,000 in back pay, interest and overtime for failure to comply with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission brought the suit on behalf of the woman.

One survey says that many employers believe pregnant women are unlikely to work throughout their length of their pregnancies or to return to work after pregnancy even though statistics show that this is not the case. Two-thirds of new mothers work during their pregnancy and four out of five work until the final month while within six months of giving birth, almost 60 percent of women return to the workplace.

An employee who feels she has been discriminated against as a result of becoming pregnant may wish to consult an attorney. In some cases, this discrimination might appear subtle. For example, a pregnant woman might be denied a promotion because the employer believes she will be leaving the job soon. The employer might not state this as a reason but might instead promote a less qualified individual. If the employee can demonstrate that pregnancy discrimination occurred, she might be entitled to receive compensation.

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