Unlawful and unfair pregnancy discrimination is alive and well in Ohio

Federal and Ohio state laws prohibit discrimination in employment based on pregnancy, as a type of sex or gender discrimination. Employees who are pregnant, facing childbirth or suffering from related medical conditions must be treated equally to similar employees who are not pregnant. Most, but not all, Ohio employers are subject to the prohibitions against pregnancy discrimination.

Discrimination can encompass many negative employer acts, including termination, failure to hire, unequal pay or benefits, failure to promote and more.

Ohio employees who experience illegal employment discrimination based on pregnancy may be able to file lawsuits under federal and state laws. Procedural and notice requirements for such lawsuits, as well as deadlines, are complicated and variable, and usually involve both government agencies and courts.

Another complication is that while federal and Ohio laws forbidding pregnancy discrimination in employment are very similar, they also have differences that can affect who may sue, which employers are subject to the ban, what remedies and damages may be available and more.

Get sound legal advice

Because of the complexity of pregnancy discrimination law, anyone in Ohio facing such discrimination should speak as soon as possible with a litigation attorney who handles employment discrimination cases. Similarly, any employer who is either faced with such a lawsuit or who needs legal advice about how to comply with pregnancy discrimination laws should also contact an experienced employment discrimination lawyer for counsel.

Ohio professor studies Ohio pregnancy discrimination claims

Vincent Roscigno, an Ohio State University professor who does workplace inequality research, along with Reginald Byron, a sociology professor at Southwestern University, published their new study on pregnancy discrimination in February 2014. The study extensively reviews prior research and several recent years of pregnancy discrimination complaints filed with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission or OCRC.

The findings are useful to both employers and employees, as the study asks why pregnancy discrimination continues to occur in employment despite such strong anti-discrimination laws. What the authors essentially conclude is that pregnant workers are at a "considerable disadvantage" when up against the "cultural and structural power imbalances" and nature of the relationships between pregnant employees and their employers.

Some of the study's observations:

  • Employers tend to characterize as problematic pregnant employees' work quality and "dependability," and justify negative employment actions against them based on what look like neutral policies and "business interests" like "efficiency and cost decisions" that sound like fair and neutral, but suspicious, reasons to terminate pregnant workers.
  • Workplace "distaste" of pregnant women is rooted in "capitalist business logic and longstanding cultural and patriarchal biases against pregnant women."

The authors conclude with hope that society and law can both change for the better to lessen the real occurrence of pregnancy discrimination and weaken employers' institutional biases.