[Today’s guest post is by Chris Perez.]
Working women of childbearing age and the public at large have taken quite an interest in the recent story of Peggy Young, a former UPS employee who alleges that she was discriminated against for being pregnant. This case has gone all the way to the Supreme Court and has inspired strong feelings on both sides.
If you are pregnant and believe that you have been fired, demoted, or otherwise mistreated by your employer because of it, there are several steps you can take to protect your rights.
Don’t settle immediately: Your employer may assure you that “cuts were coming anyway,” to avoid the appearance of discrimination. Your employer may even offer a severance package. And maybe cuts were coming anyway. But you need time to evaluate the situation fully. Don’t simply to take an offered severance package and disappear into the night. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured; tell your employer you need time to weigh the offer. Not jumping all over a severance offer will enable you to be the one in control. More important, it will give you the opportunity to…
Consult a lawyer: Gather any relevant memos, emails, and other paperwork and then get to an attorney who deals in employment issues. It’s important to get a lawyer’s outside perspective; he or she can give a realistic assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of your case, and offer valuable advice. Many attorneys offer free initial consultations. If you are unable to afford a lawyer, and the lawyer believes that you have a strong case, you may be able to make a contingent fee arrangement.
Keep your cool: It’s understandable to feel rage toward your former employer if you have experienced discrimination. That can be a good thing; it can motivate you as you navigate the slow, frustrating aspects of the legal process. But be careful about directing your vitriol toward specific people, like a former supervisor or co-worker. You may never know who is just towing the company line and who really believes the things that they are saying. You need to keep your emotions out of the equation and focus on getting the greatest possible recovery from the company.
Pregnancy discrimination is illegal, and women have every right to be both mothers and wage earners. Procreation is a natural part of life, and no mom should have to give up her job simply because she conceived a child.