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Know your rights as a pregnant worker

Finding out you are pregnant can be the beginning of an exciting adventure, but for many working women it can also be the beginning of pregnancy discrimination. Two major United States companies have recently been accused of pregnancy discrimination, which suggests this form of discrimination is still occurring around the country despite it being illegal.

On Sept. 21, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against Walmart Inc. for forcing pregnant workers to go on unpaid leave and denying the requests of pregnant workers to take on easier tasks. On Nov 12, arbitration began for a similar lawsuit, in which The Wonderful Company, which sells Fiji Water, Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice and other food products, was accused of wrongful termination and other forms of pregnancy discrimination.

In Missouri, the rights of pregnant workers are protected under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (if the employer has 15 or more employees) and the Missouri Human Rights Act (if the employer has six or more employees). These laws safeguard you from being fired, demoted, overlooked for a promotion or forced to take leave solely because of your pregnancy or a medical condition related to pregnancy. You are also able to request special accommodations that are equal to what employees with disabilities would receive.

If you have been discriminated against because of a pregnancy or pregnancy-related condition and you want the discrimination investigated or brought to court, you will need to file a complaint with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights. This complaint must be filed within 180 days of the incident of discrimination.

Pregnancy should be a cause for joy, not a cause for discrimination. Yet, many employers think they can get away with pregnancy discrimination. This is why it is important to understand your rights in the workplace and your options if those rights are violated.

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