For over 40 years now, the federal government has afforded employment protections to pregnant women via the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. This law basically prevents women who are in the workforce from being singled out or discriminated against because they either want to have child or are expecting a child and have to take time off of work for pregnancy-related issues. Likewise, California has for several years had its own, broader laws in force that further protect pregnant women.

Between the late 1990s and about 2011, the number of pregnancy discrimination claims filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission spiked, going from about 4,000 in fiscal year 1997 to about 6,000 in fiscal year 2011. After that time, until just a year or so ago, the numbers have been more stable. Some of this apparent stability, however, may be attributable to changes in the way complaints are reported.

Some organizations suggest that discrimination against pregnant women is a lot more pervasive than what the EEOC’s numbers may let on. For example, one group concluded that around 250,000 women were refused work-related accommodations for their pregnancies. Moreover, other data suggest that many women do not report pregnancy discrimination because they feel like their employers will retaliate against them, possibly even for just asking for reasonable accommodations for their pregnancies.

Despite there being progress in the last 40 years, pregnancy discrimination remains a problem that is too common in Fresno and the other parts of Central and Northern California. A woman who feels like she has been a victim of pregnancy discrimination should understand that she has legal rights and that she may be able to get justice through appropriate legal action.