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Pregnancy Discrimination

Pregnancy Discrimination

Historically, pregnant women and women with pregnancy-related medical conditions have faced significant discrimination in the workplace. Even though a federal law to eliminate pregnancy discrimination was passed thirty years ago, pregnancy discrimination is still common today. In 2016 alone, 3,486 charges of pregnancy discrimination were filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Pregnancy discrimination occurs when an employer treats an employee or job applicant unfavorably because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. The failure to hire, being fired, demoted, forced to take time off and being denied reasonable accommodations are all forms of discrimination.

Pregnancy Discrimination Laws 

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA) was the first federal law to explicitly protect pregnant workers.  The PDA is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and makes discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related medial conditions unlawful sex discrimination. The PDA requires that pregnant employees be treated the same as non-pregnant employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work. In 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court held that a worker may have a pregnancy discrimination claim if she can show that her employer accommodated an injured or non-pregnant worker, but did not make a similar accommodation for her. That Supreme Court case involved a pregnant UPS driver, who was not given a break from heavy lifting and was encouraged to take unpaid leave instead. In response to this Supreme Court decision, the EEOC updated their Enforcement Guidance regarding Disparate Treatment and Light Duty.

In New York State, under the Human Rights Law, it is illegal to discriminate based on sex, disability and familial status. The Human Rights Law was amended in 2015 to make explicit the long-held interpretation of the of the New York State Division of Human Rights that employers are required to provide reasonable accommodation of pregnancy-related conditions. Whereas the PDA applies to employers with 15 or more employees, the Human Rights Law covers employers with 4 or more employees.

What Protections Do Pregnancy Discrimination Laws Provide?

  • When interviewing for a job, an employer cannot ask you if you are pregnant or if you plan to have children. If you do volunteer the information that you are pregnant, an employer cannot legally make hiring decisions based on that information;
  • You cannot be fired, demoted or by-passed for a promotion because you are pregnant;
  • Pregnant employees must be allowed to work as long as they are able to do their jobs. In addition, if a pregnant employee has been out of work due to a pregnancy-related medical condition and recovers, an employer cannot require the employee to remain on leave until after the baby is born;
  • If you take a pregnancy-related leave, your employer must hold open your job for the same amount of time a position would hold a job for an employee on leave for a non-pregnancy-related condition, like disability or illness;
  • Pregnant employees must be provided the same types of reasonable accommodations as non-pregnant employees with temporary disabilities, such as light duty, modified tasks, or disability leave.

What Should I Do If I Have Been Discriminated Against Based On Pregnancy?

If you feel that you are being discriminated against based on your pregnancy, make sure to keep a detailed log of all events and comments. It is also a good idea to put all correspondence in writing and keep copies of all your job evaluations.

There are deadlines to pursue claims of pregnancy discrimination. Contact us for a confidential evaluation of your situation.


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