A growing number of young couples are opting to not have children. Several have speculated to the reason for the shift. It could be the increased cost of living the country has experienced recently, a greater desire to focus on personal interests over raising a family or simply a change in social norms.
One major determining factor for many women is how pregnancy will affect their careers. There are federal protections in place which shield women from having to choose between their job and family, but that does not mean pregnancy discrimination does not happen.
“Consider yourself fired”
According to an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit, Dash Dreams Plant, Inc., a Fresno based orchid grower fired women after maternity leave in 2016. After the firings, female employees were reportedly told in staff meetings that they were not allowed to get pregnant, that they already had too many children and that the next woman to get pregnant should consider herself fired.
In addition to being a shocking statement to make to employees, Dash Dreams Plant violated The Pregnancy Discrimination Act which amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – an act which bars employers from discriminating against employees due to pregnancy.
The employees wasted little time in bringing a discrimination lawsuit against their employer. Melissa Barrios, director of EEOC’s Fresno office stated that, "Employers need to be aware that pregnancy discrimination laws also protect employees after they have given birth. Failing to reinstate an employee after maternity leave and discharging them can be a violation of the law."
A little over a year after the suit was filed, at least two former employees of Dash Dream Plant were paid $110,000 in a settlement. While this does not undo the sting of such aggressive discrimination, it is at least a positive outcome for the women affected and another win for workplace equality.
Workplace discrimination protections
California takes workplace discrimination and the rights of women seriously. Our state’s regulations against discrimination are even tighter than those of the federal government. As a Californian worker you are protected from retaliation and discriminatory actions based on when you may become pregnant, your gender, ethnicity, beliefs, sexual orientation and many other attributes.
While discrimination can take many forms, some of the most common examples individuals experience include:
- Being rejected for a job during initial screening or interview process
- Not receiving promotions or pay increases
- Being fired or demoted
- Being expected to work in poor conditions
If you have experienced any of these because of protected attributes, you almost certainly have grounds to protect your rights in court.
Many employees are intimidated by the thought of speaking out against their boss or company. Remember that there are a multitude of laws in place to protect workers. You have rights as an employee, do not be afraid to use them.