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Sex discrimination in hiring: watch out for pregnancy screening

Sex discrimination in the workplace can come in various forms, and it isn’t always easy to tell whether treatment should be considered illegal discrimination. Illegal sex discrimination can take place in any aspect of employment, from hiring to termination and anywhere in between. Each phase of the employment relationship involves a different set of circumstances for potential discrimination.

For women looking for employment, one of the forms sex discrimination can take is pregnancy screening during the interview process. Pregnancy screening is rarely, if ever, going to be explicitly acknowledged by an employer when confronted with it, but this makes it no less illegal. 

Pregnancy discrimination is an aspect of sex discrimination, which is prohibited under both federal and state law. At the core of it is unfavorable treatment due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to either pregnancy or childbirth.

Pregnancy screening might take the form of asking a female applicant whether she is married, whether she has a family, or whether she plans on having a family or adding to her family anytime soon. In some cases, a potential employer may make comments to the effect that having a family in the prospective job or company is difficult or that commitment to work come before commitment to family. Such questions or comments, even when they come up outside the context of the formal interview, can sometimes be an indication that the employer is pregnancy screening.

In our next post, we’ll take a closer look at this issue, particularly what state and federal law have to say about pregnancy discrimination in the hiring process and determining one’s legal options in the face of discrimination.

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