After excitedly telling your family and friends that you were expecting a baby, you were looking forward to sharing your good news at work. You decided the first person you'd tell would be your boss; however, after doing so, you didn't quite get the reaction you'd expected. In fact, as you think back on it, instead of expressing joy or congratulations, he or she appeared somewhat irritated. You hoped it was just surprise because your news caught him or her off guard.
When you learned you were expecting a baby, you likely experienced a whole range of emotions, among which were perhaps nervousness and excitement. If you happen to be among many women in California who waited and hoped to have children of your own a long time before actually becoming pregnant, your cause for celebration may have been all the more joyous when you found out your dreams of becoming a parent were coming true.
California law prohibits employers from taking any adverse action against an employee or job applicant because of discrimination on the basis of a protected status. In some cases, though, the alleged discrimination may be mixed in with legitimate reasons for taking adverse action. Until recently, courts in California have not had a clear standard to work with in these so-called "mixed-motive" cases.
Last week on our Los Angeles / Long Beach employment law blog we had mentioned that the California Fair Employment and Housing Act bans employers from discriminating against and harassing workers on the basis of their marital status and pregnancy. This means that employers cannot discriminate against or harass employees and job applicants who are pregnant but not married.
The rights of Los Angeles workers are protected under many state and federal laws. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act alone is meant to protect workers from being harassed and discriminated against in the workplace on the basis of race, religion, national origin, disability, marital status, gender, sexual orientation, age, medical condition and pregnancy.
Women in Los Angeles and Long Beach should not be forced to sacrifice their jobs or careers because they are pregnant or raising young children. If women want to continue working while also raising a family, that choice should be up to them, not their employer. Unfortunately, many employers still engage in discriminatory practices against women who are pregnant, and even Oprah Winfrey's OWN network is currently being accused of retaliation, sex discrimination and pregnancy discrimination.
Workers in Long Beach may understand that pregnant women have rights in the workplace: it is illegal for a company to refuse to hire a worker simply because the worker is pregnant or to fire an employee who becomes pregnant.
When a woman is pregnant, it should be something that is celebrated. Regardless of an employer or supervisor's personal beliefs on whether to be a parent, women cannot and should not be subjected to pregnancy discrimination. While the law in Los Angeles and across the country says one thing, employers' actions are another. Unlike many other forms of discrimination in the workplace, however, many people's assumptions about pregnant women are subconscious and, thus, not seen to be negative.
Last week, a California jury awarded a former "The Price Is Right" model more than $7 million in damages after concluding that the show's producers had illegally fired the woman when she became pregnant.
Pregnancy is an exciting time for many women. Of course, the thought of being responsible for another being may be somewhat intimidating, but becoming a mother and raising a family is also a very rewarding experience.