Gender and Pregnancy Discrimination

What constitutes gender discrimination?

Gender discrimination involves treating an applicant or employee unfavorably because of that person's sex. The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment. An employment policy or practice that applies to everyone regardless of sex can still be illegal if it has a negative impact on the employment of people of a certain sex and is not job-related or necessary to the operation of the business.

What constitutes pregnancy discrimination?

Pregnancy discrimination involves treating an applicant or employee unfavorably because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.

What amount of leave is my employer required to provide if I become pregnant?

Under California law, an employee working for an employer with five or more employees who is disabled by pregnancy is entitled to up to four months disability leave. If the employer provides more than four months of leave for other types of temporary disabilities, the same leave must be made available to women who are disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. For more information about pregnancy leave please refer to our medical leave section.

What are some examples of gender and pregnancy discrimination?

Gender discrimination most commonly involves pay disparities between women and men in a workplace as well as "glass ceiling" cases where qualified women are not promoted into upper level positions despite having proper qualifications. Pregnancy discrimination commonly involves an employer not treating pregnant disabled employees in a similar manner as it treats other disabled employees.  Below are some common examples of gender and pregnancy discrimination from prior cases: 



  Company asked female job applicants during interview process whether they were married and had children or planned on having children in the near future.
  Male manager refused to hire any females for technology related position even though many of the female applicants had higher qualifications and experience than male candidates who were extended job offers.  

Different Conditions:

  Pharmacy chain gave female employees more difficult tasks and unfairly disciplined them for infractions that male workers were not disciplined for. Company also more commonly denied female employees vacation or sick leave requests.   Manager repeatedly yelled at female employee, refused to communicate with her on work matters, interfered with her work, and engaged in an effort to get her terminated because he felt women should not be in the workplace.


  Laundry services company fired employee after she developed complications early in her pregnancy and refused to provide her with a light duty assignment after her doctor imposed lifting restrictions even though company assigned other disabled employees to light duty positions.   Office equipment supplier fired an accounts payable specialist after she returned from maternity leave, telling her that her assignment was complete and there were no other available positions in her department. Company then hired two new employees in her department.

Company Wide:

  Financial services company paid female bankers lower average salaries even when in similar positions as males and gave lower average raises to female employees than males.   Stock brokerage expected successful brokers to socialize in mostly male after work events that sometimes end with male employees going to strip clubs. As a result, female employees are excluded from building social relationships with important managers.  

Should I file my complaint under state or federal law?

Gender and pregnancy discrimination is outlawed under both California law and federal law. However, state law is more pro-employee in many ways, including the following:

  Employers are strictly liable for discrimination by a supervisor whereas under federal law employers have a possible defense.
  Proving that the perpetrator of the discriminatory conduct falls within the definition of a supervisor is easier under state law.
  There is no cap on punitive or compensatory damages whereas under federal law there is a $300,000 limit for large employers.

These types of differences can make a major difference in the value of your case and so it is usually advantageous for an employee to file their disability discrimination claim under state law.

How long do I have to file my pregnancy or gender discrimination claim?

Two time limits apply for filing gender or pregnancy discrimination claims under California law. First, you must request a right to sue notice from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing within one year of an adverse employment action. Secondly, you must file your lawsuit in state court within one year of obtaining the right to sue notice.

For instance, if you are terminated from employment on June 1, 2013 and obtain a right to sue notice on September 15, 2013 you would then have one year (until September 15, 2014) to file your discrimination lawsuit in state court.

How can an attorney help you?

An attorney can help navigate the complex process and laws governing gender and pregnancy discrimination claims. Our firm is well-versed in gathering initial facts, advising clients on their alternatives, preparing a complaint, and litigating a discrimination case until resolution. Remember: no recovery, no fees. We only get paid if we obtain a positive recovery in your case.
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We can review the facts of your case and give you an honest evaluation of any gender or pregnancy discrimination issue you are facing. 

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