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Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace and on the Field

August 17, 2021 | Employment Law

On Friday in Tokyo, Allyson Felix, athlete, influencer and mom, won her 11th medal in a career spanning five Olympics. This one was for the 400-meter dash. Standing on the dais with a winning smile, flowers in her left hand, bronze medal in her right, her pride in her accomplishments was apparent.

Two years ago, in May of 2019 Allyson Felix wrote an op-ed for The New York Times discussing the issues she faced renegotiating her Nike contract in late 2017. As she looked forward to welcoming her first child, there was a fundamental disagreement concerning her value to Nike post-pregnancy; Nike’s offer included an appalling 70% reduction in worth.

“I’ve been one of Nike’s most widely marketed athletes. If I can’t secure maternity protections, who can?” Allyson’s frustration reignited a conversation about pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.

In the last two and a half years since her public break-up with Nike, Allyson has become a mom, started a sneaker company (Saysh), and tied Carl Lewis for the most Olympic medals won by an American athlete in Track and Field.

At the end of the day many moms feel like they spent the day training for a sport.

Add a full time job and it feels like training for the Olympics.

Reasonable, temporary accommodations in the workplace can make a big difference.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978 is the only federal law specifically providing maternity protections in the workplace. The PDA requires employers to treat pregnant workers the same as they treat an employee with a temporary injury or illness by providing reasonable accommodations like frequent bathroom breaks, modified work schedules, granting additional leave, or assigning the employee to “light duty.” This was extended under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 to include pregnancy-related carpel tunnel syndrome, pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes.

A recent survey by Childbirth Connection showed 250,000 women are denied pregnancy accommodations annually.

The Center for Employment Equity at the University of Massachusetts Amherst analyzed pregnancy discrimination charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or local Fair Employment Practices Agencies (FEPA) over a period of four years. They found that this unique form of sex discrimination happens quickly, often on the very day the employer learns of the pregnancy.

While the majority of pregnancy discrimination charges processed through the EEOC result in no monetary benefit or required workplace changes, the other 23% see a median benefit of only $8,000. An EEOC investigation takes, on average, 280 days to resolve. A full term pregnancy is 40 weeks or 280 days.

Every employee deserves to be confident their workplace will support their temporary needs,

especially at a time when the focus should be on the health of the employee and their baby.

If you have experienced pregnancy discrimination in your workplace, if reasonable accommodations were not made, if your employer made accommodations for another employee experiencing a short term illness or injury but not for your pregnancy contact our experienced, knowledgeable attorneys to recover lost wages and the damages you deserve.