Help! I've Been Harassed At Work Since I Announced My Pregnancy

pregnant woman working on...

An AOL Jobs reader asks:

I work at a place in which I always fear of losing my job. It's such a crazy hostile work environment. I'm constantly getting put down, criticized, and yelled at. I hate coming into work, I feel so uncomfortable because I know I have done something wrong. I'm pregnant, and when I told my assistant manager, all this negativity started happening. I need this job. I came into work, and I was informed that I would be cut from five days a week to two, and that the maid would be taking my job. I cried and cried, I begged for her not to do this, because I have a son. I just don't know what to do anymore. I don't want to lose my unborn child because I'm constantly stressed out about my job. I really, truly, have never worked at such a hostile and unprofessional place. If I take a break, I get yelled at. I don't miss work, I don't ever call out. I just don't understand, I was told by a co-worker that this is happening merely because I opened my mouth and told her I'm pregnant. What do I do? What can I do without losing my job? This woman is after me! Please help.

It certainly sounds like you are being harassed due to your pregnancy. Assuming the company you work for has at least 15 employees, that's illegal. So, what can you do?

Here's what you need to do to stop the harasser in her tracks:1. Report it in writing under the company's harassment policy: If the company has a written policy telling you where to report discrimination or sexual harassment (and pregnancy harassment falls within the category of sexual harassment), then follow the policy. However, even if the policy says to report it by phone or in person, make sure you put your complaint in writing. There should be somebody other than the assistant manager designated under the policy to report it to. Keep a copy of what you submitted. Call it something like, "Formal Complaint of Pregnancy Harassment." Then lay out in the complaint how you have been singled out and had your hours cut since you announced your pregnancy. They are supposed to investigate and correct the situation. If they don't, then move on to step 2.

2. File with EEOC: If they don't correct the situation, or if there's no policy telling you where to report harassment, file a charge of discrimination with EEOC. This may prevent further retaliation. Just don't expect EEOC to do anything quickly. They can't award you money and can't make the employer stop discriminating. However, filing with them is a prerequisite to suing. EEOC is extremely backed up now, so expect about 2 years before you get any findings from them. If EEOC asks if you want to mediate, say yes. Mediation is an organized settlement conference. If your employer says yes too, then this is a good opportunity to resolve the matter quickly.

3 Don't quit: You're pregnant, so even though pregnancy discrimination is illegal, it's unlikely you'll get another job when you're showing. Plus, if you are entitled to Family and Medical Leave at your current job, you won't qualify at a new job for a year. Try to stick it out if you can. Talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your stress.

4. Quit: I know I said don't quit, but if you're really putting your health and your baby's health at risk by staying, then get the heck out of there. It would be best if you can look for another job and find something before you quit if you can. Still, if you can't stay without risking your health, then quit. Make sure you think about whether being unemployed for a long time will be more stressful for you than staying in a horrid job. You don't want to put yourself in an even more stressful situation if you can avoid it.

You might want to talk to an employment lawyer in your state. Some states have additional state laws that protect pregnant employees. Don't let this bully cost you your job. Act now to protect yourself and your baby.

If you need legal advice, it's best to talk to an employment lawyer in your state, but if you have general legal issues you want me to discuss publicly here, whether about discrimination, working conditions, employment contracts, medical leave, or other employment law issues, you can ask me at AOL Jobs.

Please note: Anything you write to me may be featured in one of my columns. I won't be able to respond individually to questions.
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