The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits employers in New Jersey from discriminating against employees or potential employees due to pregnancy or childbirth. It also prohibits discrimination because of a medical condition that is related to childbirth or pregnancy. In the last decade though, statistics demonstrate that the more than 50,000 claims for pregnancy discrimination were filed with state and local fair employment practices agencies or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Actionable discriminatory behavior impacts any aspect of the person’s employment. This might include firing, hiring, promotion, assignments, pay levels, layoffs, training, vacation time, health insurance or any other condition or term of employment. Other less explicit behaviors might also constitute pregnancy discrimination, including negative stereotyping, undesirable transfers, social isolation or inappropriate comments or jokes.

A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that workplace pregnancy discrimination has a negative effect on both the mother and the baby. The study involved surveying 252 workers who were pregnant and measuring levels of perceived discrimination, stress, health outcomes, baby weight at birth, doctor visits and other factors. Discrimination was connected with an increased likelihood of postpartum depression in the mothers and decreased birth weights and gestational ages for the babies. One of the researchers on the project was surprised that pregnancy discrimination consistently seemed to negatively impact the baby, demonstrating that the effects of discrimination can be far-reaching.

Individuals who believe they have been discriminated against by an employer might want to schedule a meeting with an attorney. An attorney who has experience practicing employment law may help in pregnancy discrimination cases by reviewing the circumstances of the situation and identifying parties who may have liability. An attorney may be able to negotiate a settlement for money damages or other relief as the case merits and the client desires. In cases that don’t settle, the attorney may draft and file a complaint for relief in civil court.