Many women experience pregnancy discrimination when looking for a job while visibly pregnant or when they have to ask an existing employer to accommodate the medical needs that are associated with pregnancy.
However, just because you have successfully given birth and are now ready to return after maternity leave doesn’t mean that you won’t face discrimination related to your recent pregnancy and new maternal status.
New mothers in a broad range of professions often find themselves the victims of discrimination or employer retaliation when they try to return to their job.
Your employer might try to demote you or reduce your wages or hours
Pregnancy is a protected medical condition, and new parents typically also have the right to request unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act even if the employer does not offer paid leave benefits for new moms.
Because the leave and the pregnancy itself have federal protection, your employer should allow you to return to the same position or an equivalent one without any sort of negative consequences. If your employer demotes you, cuts your hours or tries to pay you less, that is a violation of your rights.
Your employer might suddenly have issues with your job performance
Most companies are smart enough to know that they can’t openly discriminate against a new mother on the job. Instead, they will be more subtle in the way that they mistreat their workers.
You may find yourself subject to increasing criticism and scrutiny regarding how you perform your job. Even if you do the same work you have always done, your employer may suddenly have lower performance evaluations for you or may even write you up for things that were not a problem in the past and that other co-workers don’t face disciplinary action for.
Employers might discriminate against you if you breastfeed or pump
Nursing or breastfeeding your baby is beneficial for both of you. It can help you lose pregnancy weight more quickly while simultaneously giving your baby a head start in life. Your employer should accommodate your request for private space and unpaid breaks if necessary for you to either breastfeed your child if someone can bring your infant to you at work or pump in order to store the milk for your child.
If your employer refuses to allow you to do this on the job, it could very well constitute a violation of your right.