Photo created by We Rep STEM using an image from Unsplash/Mustafa Omar.

One of Canada’s provincial Human Rights Commissions has issued new guidelines on pregnancy discrimination.

The New Brunswick Human Rights Commission announced the recommendations on December 10 to align with Human Rights Day.

“Discrimination against pregnant women and women of childbearing age manifests in subtle ways and works to marginalize and disempower these women, preventing them from following their career paths and achieving their full professional potential,” said commission chair Nathalie Chiasson.

“Conduct, practices, or policies that discriminate against women because of pregnancy or pregnancy-related circumstances are in violation of human rights legislation. This guideline is being issued to remind employers, landlords, and service providers that, under the law, they must fulfill their obligation to accommodate these women, who contribute to the economic, social, and demographic development of New Brunswick society.”

The guidelines focus on pregnancy discrimination in housing, services, and employment sectors.

“Employers must not treat their female employees differently because of pregnancy or pregnancy-related circumstances,” Chiasson said.

“Any woman who feels she has been adversely affected denied a service or a promotion, or demoted or excluded because of her pregnancy should consult the guideline and contact the commission.”

Pregnancy discrimination in industry

Pregnancy discrimination, both overt and subtle, is an issue many women face, even in some of the world’s most high-profile organizations.

In August, an internal memo penned by a former Google employee detailing systematic pregnancy discrimination went viral.

Titled “I’m Not Returning to Google After Maternity Leave, and Here is Why,” the memo portrays the company as unsupportive of young mothers and protective of senior staff who exhibit discriminatory behaviour.

“I endured months of angry chats and emails, vetoed projects, her ignoring me … and public shaming,” it reads.

Chelsey Glasson says she also learned her manager was making disparaging comments about her to senior staff members and actively looking to replace her, despite having received good performance reviews and a promotion before talking with HR.

Later that month, Glasson announced plans to file a lawsuit.

The number of reported instances of pregnancy discrimination reveals that pregnancy discrimination is not on the decline,” Glasson says on her GoFundMe page in support of the litigation.

“This doesn’t account for all of the unreported acts, and there are many given how hard it is to fight pregnancy discrimination. So many families are silenced. For those who can and do fight, they face career-damaging consequences, harassment from the employers they’re fighting, and potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

“With a goal of shedding light on pregnancy discrimination and advocating for needed public policy and other changes, I plan to move forward with legal action against Google for the blatant acts of pregnancy discrimination that I experienced.”