Three professional runners recently spoke out against Nike for the way it treated them during and after their respective pregnancies: Alysia Montaño, Allyson Felix, and Kara Goucher. If you’ve followed these stories, you may be wondering how an international corporation like Nike can get away with these seemingly obvious cases of pregnancy discrimination. I’ve been clerking for a Plaintiff’s employment law firm for over a year, and I’ve done a decent amount of research on Title VII pregnancy discrimination claims. I’m going to break each legal option down for our readers, but please know that I am not an attorney at this time, and this post does not constitute legal advice. If you feel that you are being discriminated against for any reason, please consult an employment attorney.
The main issue surrounding pregnancy is the amount of time that women need to take off work for childbirth and recovery, as well as bonding with their newborns. While pregnancy-related illnesses, childbirth, recovery, and infant-caretaking are very separate phenomena, they are often lumped into one category for legal purposes: maternity leave. Generally, there are three basic avenues for women seeking legal protection during pregnancy. Those include Title VII claims, Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) claims, and state anti-discrimination laws. Pregnant employees can usually rely on these avenues when their employers do not have an internal maternity leave policy.