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How Much Can I Sue For Pregnancy Discrimination?

The rights of pregnant workers have come a long way in the past 50 years. Thanks to state and federal laws, employees today shouldn’t have to worry that their choice to start a family will jeopardize their jobs. However, just because pregnancy discrimination is illegal doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

In this blog post, we’ll tackle one of the first questions that expecting employees have after experiencing unfair treatment: How much can I sue for pregnancy discrimination? We’ll also discuss some critical information pregnant workers should know about their legal rights. And we’ll offer tips for how to get help with workplace discrimination.

Rights Do Pregnancy Discrimination Laws Give Employees?

Discrimination against pregnant workers is prohibited by the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. These laws make it illegal for employers to make certain job decisions—hiring, firing, promotion, pay changes—based on an employee’s pregnancy status.

They also require employers to take certain actions to accommodate pregnant employees in the workplace. For example, an employee has the right to request reasonable alterations to their duties or work environment to make their job less physically strenuous while pregnant or after giving birth. 

Employees have the right to access job-protected leave due to pregnancy under other federal and state laws. These include the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), California’s Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDL), and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). As long as you have a qualified reason, your employer must grant you up to the maximum amount of unpaid leave the applicable law requires.  

What Does Pregnancy Discrimination Look Like?

If your employer refuses to grant you the accommodations or leave you’re entitled to—or retaliates against you for requesting them—they could be violating federal and state pregnancy discrimination laws. 

Other employer actions that could qualify as illegal pregnancy discrimination include:

  • Denying you health benefits due to pregnancy,
  • Giving you lower-paying job assignments because of your pregnancy,
  • Passing you over for training and educational opportunities, and
  • Firing you for requesting more rest breaks while pregnant.

In many cases, your employer might offer a non-discriminatory excuse to hide their illegal action. E.g., claiming that you were targeted for layoffs because of performance issues. However, this doesn’t make their action any less illegal. 

What Compensation Can Victims of Pregnancy Discrimination Receive?

If your employer discriminates against you because of your pregnancy, you may be eligible to receive financial compensation for the violation of your rights.

Employees who file a claim for pregnancy discrimination could recover damages for the economic losses linked to an employer’s unequal treatment. This can include lost wages, compensation for withheld advancement opportunities, and attorney fees.

Victims may also recover compensatory damages for the noneconomic toll of discrimination. Examples include emotional distress or mental anguish.

What Factors Affect a Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit? 

Successful pregnancy discrimination lawsuits can win victims anywhere from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. The amount of compensation available in any particular case depends on a combination of factors.

Severity of Discrimination 

Some forms of pregnancy discrimination have a more severe impact on a victim’s life than others. For example, unlawfully firing someone for requesting pregnancy accommodations could have far more serious long-term consequences than verbal harassment directed at a pregnant employee. More severe discriminatory actions can lead to higher compensatory damages. 

Duration of Discrimination

How long and how often the discrimination happened can also impact the value of a case. Discrimination that’s repeated over an extended period could lead to a higher degree of stress and mental anguish for the victim, which could be grounds for more compensation. 

Financial Impact of Discrimination

The financial cost of an act of discrimination is another major factor in pregnancy discrimination lawsuits. Generally, greater financial losses from an employer’s illegal act can justify a higher amount of potential compensation. These losses can include the estimated future toll of the discrimination. For example, if you’re passed over for a major promotion because you’re pregnant, a successful lawsuit could potentially include compensation for losses in future earning capacity. 

Employer Awareness of Discrimination

The amount of knowledge your employer has about your discrimination can also impact the amount of potential compensation you receive. For example, suppose you report verbal harassment to your employer multiple times but are consistently ignored. Your employer’s refusal to fulfill their duty to correct the unlawful behavior could be grounds for higher compensatory damages. In some cases, punitive damages can also be awarded to employees in California who’ve suffered extreme or clearly intentional acts of pregnancy discrimination.

Strong Evidence of Discrimination 

The quantity and quality of evidence presented play a significant role in any lawsuit. Compelling evidence and a comprehensive legal argument showing your employer’s failure to prevent or correct discrimination can make or break your case. A clear, persuasive claim that your rights have been violated can potentially support a higher compensation award.

Be aware: These aren’t the only factors that can impact the value of a lawsuit. Pregnancy discrimination settlement amounts vary widely depending on the circumstances. It’s best to speak with an attorney to gauge your case’s potential value accurately.

What Should I Do About Pregnancy Discrimination?

Gathering evidence is essential in proving any type of pregnancy discrimination claim. You need to have clear proof that your pregnancy status motivated your employer’s unfair treatment for it to qualify as discrimination.

Keep detailed records of any incidents of discrimination you experience. Make a note of the date, time, and any witnesses present. Hold onto all your communication with your employer about your pregnancy, including any accommodation requests.

You’ll also need evidence to illustrate how your employer’s action harmed you to be eligible for compensation. Having a journal to record the physical and emotional impact of the discrimination you experience is a good idea. Alongside descriptions of the unfair treatment, note the ongoing state of your mental and physical health.

Depending on the circumstances of your mistreatment, you can file a claim for pregnancy discrimination against your employer with California’s Civil Rights Department (CRD) or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Each organization will investigate your claim and either take action on your behalf or give you the notice allowing you to file a lawsuit of your own. 

However, you shouldn’t wait too long to take action. Victims of pregnancy discrimination must file a claim with California’s CRD within three years of the unlawful incident. For complaints made with the EEOC, you have less than a year to take action.

If you miss the deadline to file a claim, you lose your legal right to recover compensation for discrimination entirely. That’s why it’s important to contact a qualified employment attorney as soon as you suspect you’ve been the target of discrimination. 

Speak with a Pregnancy Discrimination Lawyer Today

At Lawyers for Justice, PC, we understand how intimidating it is to speak out against an employer who’s treated you unfairly. For over a decade, our mission has been to help workers struggling with discrimination understand and exercise their rights. Our legal team has extensive experience supporting pregnant employees at every stage in the claim process. A consultation with our attorneys can help you get a better idea of how much you can sue for pregnancy discrimination. Contact our office today to speak to a skilled advocate about how we can help you.