Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed December 14, 2021
Many parents struggle to balance a career and a family, but pregnant women can face additional challenges with employment during and after their pregnancy. Pregnancy discrimination laws are intended to help.
Just like race, gender, age, and religion, pregnancy is a protected status in U.S. employment law. In most cases, an employer cannot make hiring, firing, or promotion decisions based on whether an employee is pregnant. However, since employers have broad discretion in at-will employment matters, it can be difficult to prove that an employer's decision was motivated by the worker's pregnancy.
Education about pregnant employees' rights is essential to creating a welcoming, supportive, and legally compliant workplace for employees with families. Find helpful information about pregnancy discrimination in the workplace below. For additional legal help, contact a local employment discrimination lawyer for help.
Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace
Pregnancy discrimination occurs when an employee or applicant is discriminated against based on their pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act added protections for the pregnant to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Employers with 15 or more employees, state and local governments, employment agencies, labor organizations, and the federal government are prevented from discriminating against pregnant employees.
The law establishes that a pregnant worker who is temporarily unable to perform their job duties must be treated the same way other temporarily disabled workers are treated. The employer may need to modify work assignments or tasks, provide disability pay, or unpaid leave.
Employers also cannot ask about whether applicants are pregnant or intend to get pregnant. They can't require employees give notice of pregnancy unless there is a legitimate business purpose and the requirement does not restrict the employee's job opportunities.
Employers can't prevent a pregnant employee from working if they want to and are physically capable. They must provide health insurance coverage on the same basis as costs for other medical conditions. There are many other restrictions intended to safeguard equal treatment of pregnant employees.
Facts About Pregnancy Discrimination
Employers cannot single out pregnancy-related conditions to determine someone's ability to work. If all employees must provide a doctor's statement before granting leave or paying sick leave benefits, pregnant employees would also be subject to the policy. Similarly, the policies and procedures that normally apply to temporarily disabled employees would apply to the pregnant employee who is temporarily unable to work.
Employers may not set a rule prohibiting the return to work within a set period after childbirth. Employers need to have the same policies to allow for time-off as they would for employees on sick or disability leave.
Health insurance provided by an employer must cover expenses for pregnancy-related conditions on the same basis as they are provided for other medical conditions. Pregnancy-related benefits cannot be limited to married employees. However, depending on the employer, coverage may not include expenses for an abortion unless the mother's life is endangered.
Other federal laws also allow for pregnancy leave, to allow a pregnant worker to return to their job after any allowable leave. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows up to twelve (12) weeks of unpaid leave for pregnancy and adoption. In some cases, an employer may provide more time off or offer paid time off.
If you have experienced pregnancy discrimination, you have ground for legal action. You may want to contact an experienced legal professional who can evaluate your case and help you navigate the situation so that you and your rights are sufficiently respected.
Learn About Pregnancy Discrimination
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