Many employers still don’t get it: women in the workplace have rights that cannot be ignored. When employers violate these rights, they can be held to account.

It’s been three decades since the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 went into effect. That law describes these things employers may not do to women employees who are pregnant:

  1. They can’t fire them. The worst employers are those still think they shouldn’t have to continue employing employees who will need pregnancy leave. This is a kind of plantation mentality, placing production above decent consideration for employees. Some fuzz over this mentality, claiming that terminating expectant mothers is done in the name of safety. But it’s against the law.
  2. Employers can’t demote pregnant workers if they can still do the job. This is a form of paternalism – moving pregnant employees to less challenging situations. It is against the law.
  3. Companies can’t deny hiring to women who are pregnant – or who could become pregnant. Yes, it can be an administrative hassle to have to replace employees who take leave to give birth. But it is illegal to do this.
  4. Companies must allow mothers to express milk at work, in an appropriate place. Lactation is not grounds for dismissal. Note: This rule may be in jeopardy if Obamacare is set aside.
  5. Special accommodations may have to be made for conditions arising from pregnancy. Women with complications or temporary impairments arising from pregnancy must be considered the same as other workers with medical conditions. Companies refusing to offer accommodations have the burden of showing that doing so would impose an undue hardship on the organization.

These are just some of the stipulations of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 – a landmark law that established important rights for pregnant workers.

Very often these violations occur out of a misguided notion of chivalry – like employers are doing expectant mothers a favor by diminishing their rights.

Know your rights – and when they are set aside, seek compensation.