New Brunswick

New guidelines released to combat discrimination against pregnant women

The New Brunswick Human Rights Commission has released a 39-page document describing behaviour that would be considered discriminatory against pregnant women.

N.B. Human Rights Commission releases document spelling out discriminatory, illegal behaviour

The New Brunswick Human Rights Commission says pregnant women can be the subject of subtle forms of discrimination on the job, in housing and in the delivery of services. (Shutterstock)

The New Brunswick Human Rights Commission has released new guidelines to combat discrimination against women who are pregnant.

In a statement on the provincial government website, commission chair Nathalie Chiasson said pregnancy discrimination can have a negative effect on employees.

"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 Chiasson in the statement.

The guidelines spell out behaviour the commission would consider discriminatory and illegal.

They touch on pregnancy discrimination in housing, services and employment.

It is against human rights law, for example, to decline applications from job applicants because they are pregnant or to refuse to renew a contract because of pregnancy.

The 39-page document also explains the need for accommodation during pregnancy and the right for women to breastfeed at work.

Complaints dropping

Between 2012 and 2017, the Chiasson said the commission received 48 complaints of pregnancy-based discrimination.

She said the numbers have dropped yearly, but they don't tell the whole story.

"We know out there that there's much more cases that we're just not getting the complaints because people are not aware of their rights," said Chiasson.

"Employers … and service providers are not aware of their obligations to accommodate these circumstances."

Chiasson said there are repercussions for employers and service providers who do not follow the guidelines.

"If they're losing their jobs, losing shifts … if they're losing their housing … all these damages that are sustained by the complainant would have to be paid by the … employer or service provider," said Chiasson.

Chiasson says women who feel they may have been discriminated against should contact the commission.    

With files from Shift

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