If you’re pregnant but it’s not obvious and you’re offered a job, should you tell your new employer? This was a dilemma discussed in a recent New York Times blog. A reader was lamenting about what to do because she had difficulty securing a job for the past six months and finally received an offer. Although employers are not supposed to discriminate against pregnant women, it happens on a daily basis.

According to Wikipedia, 70% of women in the workforce have children and represent 6.5% of all discrimination cases.  In 2006, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission handled 4,901 claims that resulted in $10.4 million paid in claims.

Having a baby is sometimes a career decision for both workers and students. I recall with sadness the tongue-lashings and grueling inquisitions my female ob-gyn colleagues endured during residency training once their pregnancies were discovered.  Comments such as “poor planning” and “selfish” were always hurled like epithets but our male counterparts were always congratulated. Fortunately there are laws that protect pregnant women.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, under Title 7 attempts to protect the rights of pregnant women by establishing the following rules:

  • An employer cannot refuse to hire a pregnant woman because of her pregnancy, because of a pregnancy-related condition, or because of the prejudices of co-workers, clients, or customers
  • An employer may not single out pregnancy-related conditions for special procedures to determine an employee’s ability to work.
  • Any health insurance provided by an employer must cover expenses for pregnancy-related conditions on the same basis as costs for other medical conditions. An employer need not provide health insurance for expenses arising from abortion, except where the life of the mother
  • Pregnancy-related benefits cannot be limited to married employees. In an all-female workforce or job classification, benefits must be provided for pregnancy-related conditions if benefits are provided for other medical conditions.
  • If an employer provides any benefits to workers on leave, the employer must provide the same benefits for those on leave for pregnancy-related conditions.

If you are pregnant and believe you have experienced discrimination, please contact the EEOC. Remember, a healthy pregnancy doesn’t just happen. It takes a smart mother who knows what to do.