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Pregnant Women Are Protected from Discrimination at Work


Pregnant Women Are Protected from Discrimination at Work


In Massachusetts, pregnant women are considered members of a protected class under anti-discrimination laws. Because pregnancy is linked to sex, discrimination based on pregnancy is considered a form of sex discrimination in Massachusetts. This means that employers cannot refuse to hire, terminate or otherwise discriminate against an employee because of her pregnancy. Additionally, an employer cannot consider a woman’s pregnancy, or her need to take maternity leave, when making an employment decision.

Pregnancy discrimination can take many forms. It may be that an employer treats a pregnant employee differently that non-pregnant employees, or engages in practices or institutes policies that only limit or impact pregnant employees and not others.

A closer look at pregnancy discrimination

In a recent case, Gonsalez v. Marin, a pregnant employee alleged that she was discriminated against as a result of her pregnancy. Under a disparate treatment approach to discrimination, the employee was able to successfully show that she was treated differently by her employer because of her pregnancy.

The plaintiff in this case, Laura Vidals, was an employee at a piñata manufacturing factory. Six months after she began work there, Ms. Vidals became visibly pregnant, which was seen by her coworkers and employer. At this time, her employer significantly reduced the number of shifts Ms. Vidals was given per week.

In order to prove that the reduction in shifts constituted pregnancy discrimination, Ms. Vidals was required to show that the change in her employment status was directly related to her pregnancy. In this case, Ms. Vidals was able to meet this burden based on several factors:

  • Prior to her pregnancy, Ms. Vidals had not received any indication that her work product was poor;
  • The shifts of other non-pregnant employees’ had not been reduced,
  • A new full-time employee had been hired right when Ms. Vidals’ shifts were reduced; and
  • The employer allegedly stated that he could not have a pregnant employee working in a factory because it would “cause problems.”

Based on these facts, a judge was able to find that Ms. Vidals was, indeed, a victim of pregnancy discrimination.

See Gonsalez v. Marin, Slip Op. (WestLaw 2514704), (E.D. NY 2014).

If you are facing discrimination based upon pregnancy at work, please contact an employment attorney today.