How to Spot Pregnancy Discrimination

If you're a working mama-to-be, check out these eight warning signs of pregnancy discrimination.
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You're probably already experiencing some of pregnancy's downsides -- the morning sickness, the fatigue, the random strangers who think it's okay to touch your belly. But what about the possibility that your employer or your coworkers won't be supportive of your pregnancy -- and might actually hold back your career as your family grows?

Pregnancy discrimination is a little harder to prepare for, and it can be tricky to spot.

"Some employers know they're not supposed to discriminate," says lawyer Tom Spiggle, author of You're Pregnant? You're Fired! Protecting Mothers, Fathers, and Other Caregivers in the Workplace. He adds that because many employers won't come out and say what they're doing, pregnancy discrimination can be very subtle.

Even so, there are signs that you can -- and should -- watch for. And they all have one thing in common: They represent a sudden change in the way things are done. "Any big change would be a red flag for me," says Donna Galatas, CEO of The Galatas Group, a human resources consulting firm for small businesses in Frisco, Texas.

Here are some of the more common warning signs of pregnancy discrimination. Make note -- and, more important, be ready to take action if you spot them.

You're singled out. Sadly, not all jerky-boss behavior is illegal. "Being rotten is not discrimination," Spiggle says. But being more rotten to one person because she's a part of a legally protected class, such as pregnant women, is. So if you suddenly get an extra dose of nasty, pay attention.

Criticism of your work spikes. If you've been a consistently successful employee, receiving good reviews and positive feedback from your managers, and you notice a sudden increase in either the amount, tone, or type of negative feedback you get for your work while you're pregnant, it could be a sign of trouble.

A raise doesn't happen. Sometimes, Galatas notes, discriminatory changes are more about what isn't happening than what is. For example, if you had been discussing a raise or a bonus with your boss or your HR department before you announced your pregnancy, and that conversation suddenly goes silent, it might be because you are pregnant (and thus, illegal).

Your in box is empty. Have you noticed a sudden drop in your new-mail count? If you're usually included on critical work-related e-mails but those cc's stop, it could be an indicator of workplace exclusion, Galatas says.

You calendar goes blank. Much like dwindling e-mail, disappearing meeting invites can be a red flag. These changes aren't always discriminatory -- for instance, the meetings may be to prepare presentations that will happen during your maternity leave. But if there are meetings you'd normally be expected to be a part of, and you're suddenly not, it could be a symptom of trouble.

You're missing out on training or education opportunities. If the career track you've been following feels like it's suddenly taking a detour, with fewer chances for you to grow via seminars, new projects, classes, or other training, ask for clarification on why.

Promotion talk stops. Like many of the items on this list, silence can be tough to pinpoint -- but if you realize that the promotion you'd been discussing or moving toward has is no longer mentioned, that can indicate problems.

You don't get invited to social and networking events. If your coworkers are having networking opportunities, even informal ones such as lunches or drinks with managers after hours, and you don't get to participate in the way everyone else in your role or position is, you should pay attention, Galatas says.

Of course, some of these "warning signs" may be the result of a misplaced attempt to help you out, or lighten your load, while you're pregnant. So when you notice them, your first job is not to panic. Instead, make note of them in a diary (seriously, you might need the records) and then initiate a low-key conversation with the people involved.

If a friendly talk doesn't help, you may need to escalate your pregnancy discrimination concerns to your manager or your human resources department.

Conceal your belly in the early stages of pregnancy.

Copyright © 2014 Meredith Corporation.

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