Alright. Next I would like to talk about pregnancy and discrimination. Discrimination occurs when you treat people differently because of their personal characteristics and it affects them negatively. Personal characteristics are things like age, race, religion or gender.
Almost 10% of all cases that the BC Human Rights Tribunal deals with involve discrimination about pregnancy. So, let me ask you, can a woman be fired for becoming pregnant?
Person 2: No.
Person 4: It happens.
It does happen, so let me be clear with my answer. It is against the law to discriminate against a woman because she is pregnant, was pregnant, or might get pregnant. Because only women get pregnant, the courts have decided that discrimination due to pregnancy is discrimination based on women’s sex. You cannot be discriminated against because of your sex.
In terms of the BC Human Rights Code, sex means a variety of things, including gender, pregnancy and breast-feeding. It is discrimination based on sex if a woman is treated differently because she is female. It’s against the law. Discrimination based on sex also applies to sexual harassment.
Person 3: My co-worker recently went on maternity leave and will be gone for 8 months. My boss hired someone to replace her, and he is already talking about not bringing my co-worker back when she wants to return to work. Is that allowed?
No. After a woman takes maternity leave from work, an employer has a duty to return the woman to work when she wants to return, and must return her to the same or similar position she left.
Of course, changes can happen when you are away on maternity leave. If your employer was forced to downsize, and your employer can show that you would have lost your job if you had been there, then it would not be discrimination for the employer to lay you off.
Person 1: And what if a woman can’t do her job anymore because she’s pregnant?
If you’re pregnant, you have rights. If you are fired for being pregnant – that is discrimination. For example, if your job requires you to stand all day and that becomes difficult for you to do because of your pregnancy, then your employer should accommodate you by allowing you to sit while you do your work. “Accommodate” means to help or assist someone.
If there are other things that you find hard to do because of your pregnancy then you should get a medical note, tell your boss and see how he or she can help. Your employer has a duty to accommodate your medical issues. “Duty to accommodate” means that the employer is required to help and assist.
Person 2: Do I have the right to bring my child to work? What about if my baby gets sick? Do I have a right to leave work early?
Human rights protections have limits. A parent does not have the right to bring a child to work, or to leave work early to care for a child. However, other laws might give you the right to stay home from work to look after your child in an emergency.
Person 5: My aunt says she didn’t get a job as a cashier because she has a young daughter. Is that discrimination?
Yes. No one can discriminate against you because of your family status. This includes being treated negatively because you have children or because of your relationship to other close family members, such as your brother, a sister, or grandparent.
You also can’t be discriminated against if you are single, married, living common law, separated, divorced or widowed. That would be discrimination because of your marital status.
Person 4: Do gay people have human rights?
Yes, there are human rights for sexual orientation. Protection for sexual orientation means that it is unlawful to discriminate against gays, lesbians, transgendered and bi-sexual people. Straight people also get protection because of their sexual orientation.
Person 5: And what about renting an apartment? I think many landlords might not rent to a pregnant woman.
That is discrimination. These rights apply when you are renting, or looking to rent, an apartment. It is illegal for a landlord to refuse to rent an apartment to you because you are pregnant, have had a baby, or because you may become pregnant. For example, a landlord cannot refuse to rent an apartment to you just because you are going to a have a baby and babies make noise.
Person 4: I’ve seen in the news a few times about stores getting in trouble for asking a mother who is breastfeeding to leave the store. I’d like to know what the law says about breast-feeding.
Nursing mothers have rights. For example, mothers have the right to breast-feed in a public area. No one can prevent you from doing that or ask you to move to another area. And if you are a customer in a store, you can ask them to provide a space for you to breast-feed.
Last reviewed: March 2016
IMPORTANT: This page provides legal information, not legal advice. If you need legal advice consult a lawyer.
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