It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee on the basis of pregnancy. Pregnancy discrimination may include refusal of leave requests or failing to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees. This type of conduct is prohibited under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) and extends to potential pregnancies. Potential pregnancies usually refer to situations where a woman is found capable of bearing children, has expressed a desire to do so, or is perceived as being likely to do so.
In the case of Sagona v R & C Piccoli Investments Pty Ltd & Ors , FCCA 875 The Federal Circuit Court of Australia dealt with a dispute where the applicant had been employed as a photographer for 12 years. She had advised her employer that she was ten weeks pregnant and would take a period of maternity leave. They held that the applicant was forced to resign because of the course of conduct taken by her employer, including demanding her to work additional hours and refusing to consider both her request to work part-time and working in alternative duties.
If an employer treats a pregnant or potentially pregnant employee less favourably or takes some form of adverse action against them, then they may find themselves liable for contraventions under multiple statutory protections. In the above case, the employer was ordered to pay the applicant $61,000 as a pecuniary penalty, along with compensation totalling to $164,097 for loss suffered, and $10,000 for distress, hurt and humiliation.