If you are fired when you are pregnant, you may wonder if you can take legal action against your employer. While people can be fired at any time for legitimate reasons, it is illegal in the United States to fire someone because they are pregnant.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act makes it against the law for any US employer with 15 or more employees to mistreat them because they are pregnant. Also, the Illinois Human Rights Act makes it illegal to discriminate against pregnant people. This state law covers companies with at least one employee.
Learn below about your legal options and employee rights if you are fired when you are pregnant. Then, talk to one of our Chicago wrongful termination attorneys at North Suburban Legal Services for more information.
You can be fired while pregnant for legitimate reasons but not for being pregnant. For example, suppose you are an at-will employee in Illinois. In that case, your employer can fire you for breaking company policies, not showing up to work, or because they need to reduce staff for economic reasons. So, being pregnant will not guarantee you can keep your job.
However, pregnancy discrimination happens in Illinois. State and federal pregnancy discrimination laws bar employers from using your pregnancy as a reason to fire you. Therefore, if you are terminated during pregnancy, look carefully at the employer’s reason.
Do you suspect you were treated differently than other employees because of your pregnancy? Did the company use your pregnancy or maternity leave as a motivating factor let you go? If so, a Chicago wrongful termination attorney can help you.
You need to show that your pregnancy was why your company fired you. Here is some of the evidence your attorney may look for to prove your case:
Perhaps your employer fired you, claiming your job performance has suffered this year. However, proving that your performance was the same or better as your co-workers suggests your employer is lying. In addition, they may hide the reason they let you go: You are pregnant.
Suppose you had excellent performance reviews until you were pregnant. Once the employer knew, your performance was the same. Then, suddenly, your manager writes negative performance reviews this quarter. You also notice you are being written up for minor issues that were never a problem until your pregnancy.
The timing is suspicious. Unless there is a good reason for the negative feedback, your attorney may argue it is pregnancy discrimination. For example, there are cases where an employer revoked a job offer to someone the day after they asked about pregnancy leave. The employer may argue they need an employee without any time off for the next year. However, this constitutes pregnancy discrimination.
Most companies are wise enough to keep their discriminatory beliefs hidden. However, sometimes a supervisor may say something that shows they do not like you being pregnant. For example, maybe your boss says that having people take two months off during pregnancy is a hassle. Or, they might say that women are not as motivated when they return after pregnancy leave. These comments show a discriminatory belief system.
Most companies have an established disciplinary method before they fire someone. No one is ever disciplined or fired without that process. This could be discrimination if you are fired outside of normal practice and are pregnant.
Many women experience morning sickness when they are pregnant. If that happens, you may need to take more time off than usual. In addition, it could be actionable in court if your company disciplines or terminates you for calling off sick during your pregnancy.
Another point to consider when being pregnant is your employer is required by state and federal law to provide reasonable accommodations. Therefore, the employer must make accommodations or changes to your job while pregnant so you can continue to work.
For example, if you usually stand for several hours per day on the job, you may need to sit more when pregnant. Therefore, your employer needs to allow you to sit more so you are comfortable. Or, if you need to travel often for work meetings, the employer should allow you to telecommute and do video conferences when you are pregnant.
If the job is hazardous to a pregnant employee, the company must provide you with another job or workload while you are pregnant. However, the different position cannot change your pay rate. The job also cannot be forced on you. If any of these things happen, you may be able to sue for discrimination.
You usually must file a discrimination charge through the Equal Opportunity Commission if you want to sue your company for firing you when you are pregnant. The EEOC will send a copy of the complaint to your company. The EEOC may launch an investigation after you file your complaint. The organization may determine if getting mediation in the dispute is better than having a lawsuit. When the EEOC is done processing the complaint, they may provide you with a letter authorizing you to sue.
Being pregnant is a wondrous experience, but some employers take an opposing view. You have legal options if you think your employer has acted against you for being pregnant. Remember, you have employee rights when you are pregnant.
You should contact an attorney who will ask why you think you were fired and the evidence you have. Giving your attorney any documented proof supporting a pregnancy discrimination claim is essential. Also, talk to your lawyer about any experiences at work that may have looked like pregnancy discrimination.
Our Chicago wrongful termination attorneys at North Suburban Legal Services can help you file a civil lawsuit if you are being wrongfully fired for being pregnant. Please contact us today for a complimentary consultation at (312) 909-6089.