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Pregnancy Discrimination

Many parents struggle to balance a career and a family, but pregnant women face additional challenges at work both during and after their pregnancy. Many employers won't hire a pregnant woman. Others find a way to lay off an employee once they learn the woman is having a baby.

While it is illegal to engage in these practices, business owners and managers still do so. This is why the federal government has implemented laws to protect pregnant women. There are also state laws prohibiting discrimination against pregnant women. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission oversees the enforcement of many of these laws.

Here, we will explain pregnancy discrimination and discuss how state and federal laws protect pregnant women. We'll also discuss what to do if you believe you or a co-worker are the victim of employment discrimination.

Are Pregnant Women a Protected Class?

The U.S. government has passed many laws over the years to prevent discrimination. Many people think that these laws focus only on racial discrimination. However, anti-discrimination laws prohibit unfair and unequal behavior based on other factors, such as gender, age, and religion.

Pregnancy is also a protected status in U.S. employment law. An employer cannot make hiring, firing, promotion, or demotion decisions based on whether an employee is pregnant. However, since employers have broad discretion in at-will employment matters, proving that a worker's pregnancy motivated an employer's decision can be difficult.

Education about pregnant employees' rights is essential to creating a fair and supportive workplace for employees with families. If employees know their employment rights, they are more willing to notice unfair treatment in all aspects of employment.

Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace

Pregnancy discrimination occurs when a company discriminates against an employee or applicant based on their pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which is part of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prevents employers from discriminating against pregnant employees. This law applies to all employers and agencies with fifteen or more employees.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act establishes that companies must treat pregnant workers who are temporarily unable to perform their job duties the same way they treat other temporarily disabled workers. Starting with the PDA and supplemented by the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act of 2023, employers may also need to modify work assignments or tasks, provide disability pay, or provide unpaid leave.

Employers Duties Toward Pregnant Workers

Federal and state law offers special protections for pregnant women and female workers considering starting a family. Employers cannot ask applicants if they are pregnant or intend to get pregnant, and they can't require employees to give notice of pregnancy unless there is a legitimate business purpose.

Employers can't prevent pregnant women from working if they want to and are capable. In addition, employers must provide health insurance coverage on the same basis as other medical conditions. There are many other restrictions to safeguard equal treatment of pregnant employees.

About Pregnancy Discrimination

Employers cannot single out pregnancy-related conditions to determine someone's ability to work. The policies and procedures that apply to temporarily disabled employees apply to pregnant employees who are temporarily unable to work.

Employers may not set a rule prohibiting the return to work within a prescribed period after childbirth. They must have the same time off policies as they would for employees on sick or disability leave. Leave may be taken under the Family and Medical Leave Act for up to 12 weeks after the birth of a child.

Employer-provided health insurance must cover expenses for pregnancy-related conditions on the same basis as other medical conditions. Pregnancy-related benefits cannot be limited to married employees. Depending on the employer, under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act coverage may not include expenses for an abortion unless the mother's life is in danger or complications arise from an abortion.

Anti-Discrimination Laws Protecting Pregnant Women

If you think your employer has violated your rights, it's a good idea to review the federal laws protecting pregnant women. Below are the important rules that protect you and offer you solutions.

Feel free to read additional information on these acts at Depending on the facts of your case, you may be entitled to compensation and other damages.

  • Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 - This was an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit sexual discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, and other related medical conditions.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act - The ADA does not protect women experiencing a normal pregnancy. However, if you're having a difficult pregnancy, your doctor may indicate that you qualify for disability. With that doctor's statement, your employer must treat you the same way they'd treat another disabled worker.
  • Pregnant Workers Fairness Act of 2023 - The PWFA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women. The law does not require companies to do this if it will cause an undue hardship on the business.
  • The Family and Medical Leave Act - The FMLA allows up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for pregnancy and adoption. An employer may provide extra time off or offer paid leave.

If you aren't sure which law protects you, contact a skilled employment attorney. They can review your situation and explain your options under the law.

Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Women

You may wonder what kind of reasonable accommodations your employer can provide while you're pregnant. It depends on the type of work you do. For example, if your job involves heavy lifting, your employer may have to delegate this part to someone else.

Another example of a reasonable accommodation would be providing chairs to pregnant employees so they don't have to stand throughout their shifts. This may apply to cashiers, grocery clerks, and other retail occupations.

An Employment Lawyer Can Help

If you have experienced pregnancy discrimination, you may have grounds for legal action. Contact an experienced legal professional who can evaluate your case and help you navigate the situation.

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our employment attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Learn About Pregnancy Discrimination

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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