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Houston Employment Law Blog

5 federally mandated protections against pregnancy discrimination

Last week, we discussed workplace discrimination based on pregnancy. This week, we dig deeper into Pregnancy Discrimination Act to understand the protections it guarantees to women. Here are five things you should know:

  1. Pregnancy isn’t a legitimate reason to be fired. In addition, a woman can’t be fired for having had an abortion—or for considering having an abortion.
  2. It is illegal to refuse to hire a woman because she is pregnant or may become pregnant. The PDA also protects women against workplace harassment due to pregnancy.
  3. Companies are required to provide a safe, private space—not a bathroom—for women to pump milk. Additionally, companies with at least 50 employees must give women breaks to pump milk for at least one year after giving birth. It is illegal to discriminate against a woman for lactating.
  4. If a woman has experienced pregnancy-related complications that result in a temporary inability to carry out some aspects of her work, her employer is required to accommodate her. For instance, an employer may reassign especially physically demanding tasks to someone else or permit a pregnant women to sit during her shift, if normally she would stand.
  5. If a woman is willing and able to work while pregnant, it is her right to continue working. An employer cannot make assumptions about a pregnant woman’s ability to work. The decision to stop working—or to switch to a less strenuous type of work—during pregnancy cannot come from the employer.

How you can stop sexual discrimination

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The culture around sex discrimination in the workplace has changed visibly in the last few months. The raised awareness is good, but not enough to make a difference. Managers and male coworkers need to understand the negative behaviors that fostered this situation and take steps to prevent them in the future.

A Pew survey states that 42 percent of women in the workplace experience some form of discrimination. Here are four common types of discrimination in the workplace and steps you can take to end the problem.

Is pregnancy discrimination in the workplace illegal?

When you hear the words “workplace discrimination,” you likely think about discrimination based on race, gender or sexual orientation. A less commonly talked about form of discrimination—which is nonetheless still an issue in the workplace—is pregnancy discrimination.

Pregnancy discrimination refers to any unfair treatment because one is, looks or is expected to become pregnant. It also encompasses discrimination based on factors relating to childbirth or pregnancy-related medical conditions. Examples of such discrimination include:

Workplace retaliation: an increasingly common problem in the U.S.

Workplace retaliation constitutes nearly 45 percent of all workplace discrimination claims, according to a recent report. This number represents a steep increase compared to 22 percent two decades ago. Experts say that vulnerable populations—immigrants and low-income workers—are especially susceptible to such treatment.

Workplace retaliation occurs when a worker engages in a so-called “protected activity” and is penalized by their employer as a result (e.g., is fired/demoted or receives threats/worse treatment than colleagues). For example, if you are injured on the job and file a workers’ compensation claim, and your employer terminates your employment, this could be a form of retaliation if you can demonstrate that the claim was the cause of the termination.

Culture of fear at work enables poor treatment of meat processors

Recent reports indicate that safety in meat and poultry processing plants is a concern across the United States. What’s more, workers in these industries are afraid to speak out.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently conducted a study of workplace conditions in meat and poultry processing plants. It found that plant workers across the country were victims of inhumane treatment and unsafe conditions at work—which go against the federal protections created by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Poor working conditions for day laborers in the wake of Harvey

The disastrous effects of Hurricane Harvey have left much of Houston in a state of ruin. The enormous job of cleaning up the homes and businesses that were hit by the storm has resulted in increased work for day laborers.

As has been the case following all major storms and hurricanes in recent U.S. history, day laborers have been a vital part of the rebuilding process. The work they perform isn’t pretty; it can include anything from moving fallen trees to clearing out flooded homes. However, studies conducted in the weeks since Harvey hit indicate that the current environment has facilitated exploitation of the workers aiding the clean-up efforts.

When are children under 14 permitted to work in Texas?

The labor laws protecting children vary widely across the United States. In Texas, 14 is generally considered the minimum age of employment. One exception to this rule, however, is children working in the entertainment industry. Child actors of any age are permitted to work in Texas. However, the law has certain protections in place for such children.

Child actors under 14

Offensive comment from a co-worker? Here's what to do

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What do you do when a colleague makes a sexist remark to you? Do you have a witty retort that puts him in his place? Do you bite your tongue and feel awkward in his presence for the rest of the week?

While some people may tell you just to shrug it off, sexist remarks, jokes and advances are forms of sexual harassment and should not be tolerated. Unfortunately, sexual harassment is far too common in many workplaces. No matter your gender or sexual orientation, you should not have to put up with it.

How do I file an employment discrimination complaint in Texas?

The state of Texas defines employment discrimination as any unfair treatment on the basis of race, color, disability, religion, sex, national origin, age or pregnancy. Such treatment could include refusing to hire a particular individual or giving an existing employee disadvantages because of any of the above factors.

Requirements

The Labor Department wants to know your opinion on overtime law

The Department of Labor has been debating whether to change how it currently defines exempt vs. non-exempt employees. In general, non-exempt employees work for an hourly wage, while exempt employees work for an annual salary. As an exempt employee, you are prohibited from earning overtime pay—time-and-a-half pay for working more than 40 hours in a week.

The current rules

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