Women get pregnant every day, and many of them have full-time careers. For most women, there is no conflict between their pregnancy and the workplace. They often work until they can no longer do so and then receive disability benefits once their baby is born. They may even take unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) so they can spend more time with their new baby. They communicate with their employer to determine how long they’ll be off work and what to expect when they return.
Unfortunately, though, many women face pregnancy discrimination at their places of employment. This is especially true in police departments, which are dominated by men. In fact, 88 percent of police officers in the United States are men. Therefore, when a female police officer becomes pregnant, most departments are at a loss at what to do. This may be the first situation for some departments, so there are no laws in place or previous examples to review.
What many police departments don’t know, however, is that there are laws in place prohibiting such discrimination. Many police chiefs expect pregnant police officers to simply take unpaid leave, but women need to know that they have options and should not settle for less pay and benefits solely because they are pregnant.
According to The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, women affected by pregnancy or childbirth are to be treated the same for all employment-related purposes, including receipt of benefits. However, many female police officers have not received fair treatment.
In one case, a 37-year-old police officer was told to go on unpaid leave if she was no longer able to carry out her duties as police officer. Under the law, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant women when they can no longer perform their regular duties. However, this woman was offered no alternatives. She was told that only injured police officers could receive light duty.
The woman filed a lawsuit, claiming that the police department violated state and federal discrimination laws. She could no longer fit into her uniform and was forced to go on unpaid leave, which means she lost months of salary, time off and pension benefits. She was also passed over for a promotion and suddenly ordered to track all her breaks. She is still with the department and is scared of losing her job. Her case is still pending.
Pregnancy is supposed to be a happy time in a woman’s life, but it is often a stressful experience for workers who are discriminated against by their employers. Women tend to receive unfair treatment and a lack of accommodations due to pregnancy, but this practice is against the law.
If you have been denied reasonable accommodations or treated unfairly because you are pregnant, understand your rights. Pregnancy is considered a disability under federal law. The lawyers at Marshall Forman & Schlein LLC can advise you of the next steps. Call us at (614) 463-9790 to schedule a consultation.
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