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Reports detail examples of pregnant women facing discrimination in the workplace
Women at large corporations throughout the U.S. have been sidelined due to pregnancy, according to The New York Times. - photo by Megan McNulty
Women at large corporations throughout the U.S. have been sidelined due to pregnancy, according to The New York Times.

Some women hit the maternal wall long before the glass ceiling, Joan C. Williams, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of Law, told The New York Times in a recent article titled "Pregnancy discrimination is rampant inside Americas biggest companies." There are 20 years of lab studies that show the bias exists and that, once triggered, its very strong.

Whitney Tomlinson, a 30-year-old single mother and packer at a Walmart distribution center in Atlanta, told CNN she was forced to get a note from her doctor to receive a break on the job due to morning sickness. Once Tomlinson secured a note that she could not do heavy lifting work, the supervisor suggested she apply for unpaid leave from the packing job because she was a "liability" to the company.

Several other court cases have emerged in the U.S. regarding workplace discrimination due to pregnancy. A woman who was employed by Glencore, one of the world's largest trading commodities, told The New York Times she not only endured sexist comments on the job, but was told her career would plateau due to the birth of her child.

"When she was eight months pregnant, she discussed potential future career moves with Mr. Freshwater (her boss). According to her, Mr. Freshwater responded: 'Youre old and having babies so theres nowhere for you to go,'" according to The New York Times.

According to CNN Money, under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, it is illegal to fire a woman because she is pregnant. Additionally, a company cannot refuse to hire a woman because she is pregnant or plans on becoming pregnant in the future.

"Sometimes, employers try to disguise the discrimination behind good intentions. They explain they're worried about safety, for example. In other cases, the discrimination is more blatant. Either way, it's illegal," according to CNN Money.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 prohibits sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy in the workplace, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission site.

"The terms 'because of sex' or 'on the basis of sex' include, but are not limited to, because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; and women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes, including receipt of benefits under fringe benefit programs, as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work, and nothing in section 703(h) of this title shall be interpreted to permit otherwise," the act states.

For more information about what rights pregnant woman have in the workplace, visit the United States Department of Labor website.