Job discrimination against pregnant women falls under gender discrimination, and is a violation of the Civil Rights Act. In some jurisdictions it is also a violation of state and/or local laws. Pregnant employees and job applicants are protected from unfavorable treatment that is based solely on their pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. If you believe that you have been the victim of pregnancy discrimination, an employment attorney can help you decide what to do next.
Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 defines equal opportunity employment. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA) is an amendment to Title VII, created to expand its protections against discrimination based on gender to specifically include pregnant women.
PDA is not a blank check to all pregnant women under all conditions. It does not apply to private companies with fewer than 15 workers, or in circumstances where your employer can prove that it would create an unreasonable hardship on the company.
Pregnant Women and Those who may Become Pregnant
Employers are not allowed to discriminate against women based on pregnancy, the fact that they may become pregnant, or because they have had or are considering an abortion. Nor can they deny unmarried pregnant women benefits provided to married pregnant women.
Pregnant women are to be allowed to continue working as long as they want to, as long as they are physically capable of performing their job duties. They cannot be forced to begin leave simply because the employer thinks that women should not work after a certain point in pregnancy. Maternity leave is to begin when the woman and her doctor feel it is appropriate.
Pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions must be treated as any other temporary illness or medical condition, and the inability to perform job duties due to pregnancy and related conditions must be treated the same as other temporary disabilities. This includes providing the same insurance benefits as are provided for other medical conditions and an equal amount of leave time. Also, employers can only require a doctor’s notes for pregnancy-related issues if they require doctor’s notes for other medical conditions and temporary disabilities.
Employers are not required to provide health insurance which pays for abortion expenses unless the mother’s life is in danger.
Family and Medical Leave Act
You may be entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Certain conditions apply, including the type of employer and how long you have been employed. FMLA allows you to take off due to your own health condition or to take care of a family member with a serious health condition, and includes leave to take care of a newborn baby.