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Which U.S. Laws Protect Female Workers From Discrimination Due to Pregnancy?

Which of the Following U.S. Laws Protects Female Workers From Discrimination Because of Pregnancy?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from discrimination based on protected characteristics, including sex-based discrimination. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which was amended to Title VII, denotes pregnancy discrimination as a form of sex discrimination.

According to the PDA, employers must treat pregnant women as "temporarily disabled" and accommodate them as any other employee experiencing a short-term disability. Additionally, the Family Medical Leave Act, allows both mothers and fathers 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave after childbirth.

Under laws that protect women from pregnancy discrimination, an employer may not:

  • Fire a female employee because she is pregnant
  • Refuse to hire an otherwise qualified woman because she is pregnant
  • Require a pregnant employee to bring a doctor's note verifying her inability to work when other employees are not required to follow similar protocol if they are injured or ill
  • Fail to restore an employee who just returned from pregnancy leave to her former position or one like it
  • Treat an employee differently because she is pregnant, including demoting her, decreasing her hours, or removing privileges / responsibilities
  • Enact a rule that employees may not return to work for a certain amount of time before or after giving birth
  • Penalize an employee who takes time off for prenatal doctor appointments when other employees are not penalized when they leave for medical reasons
  • Ignore an employee who is otherwise qualified for a promotion or pay raise because she is pregnant

Frequently Asked Questions About Pregnancy in the Workplace

What is considered pregnancy discrimination?

Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), it is unlawful for companies to discriminate against employees based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

Discrimination may pertain to:

  • Hiring
  • Firing
  • Promotions
  • Raises
  • Layoffs
  • Training
  • Fringe benefits
  • Docking, reducing, or withholding compensation
  • Reducing hours
  • Creating a hostile work environment
  • Job assignments, or
  • Anything that negatively impacts the terms and conditions of your employment due to pregnancy

Is my pregnancy considered a disability?

While pregnancy itself is not considered a disability under federal law, some conditions related to pregnancy may be considered temporary disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For example, gestational diabetes may be a disability in some cases.

If you qualify for ADA coverage while pregnant, you may be legally entitled to job accommodations that would allow you to continue working. However, it is important to note that accommodations may also be subject to your employer’s existing policies on temporary disabilities.

Can my employer force me to take leave because I am pregnant?

No, employers cannot force you to take leave simply because you are pregnant—even if they claim that they are acting in your best interest.

Federal law states that pregnant workers must be allowed to continue work as long as they are able.

In addition, if you must take leave for a pregnancy-related condition, you cannot be forced to stay on leave if you recover.

Can my employer make me bring in a doctor’s note?

The PDA states that companies may not require pregnant women, or women suspected of being pregnant, to provide medical documentation that would not normally be required of other similarly situated employees.

That means that employers cannot demand that you bring in a doctor’s note to prove that it is safe for you to work while pregnant.

However, you may be legally required to supply documentation in some circumstances. For example, if a company would normally require staffers to submit medical documentation before taking sick leave, then pregnant women would have to adhere to that rule as well.

What is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

Many women take their maternity leave through the FMLA.

Woman who are entitled to FMLA leave may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for prenatal care, the birth of a child, recovery from childbirth, and bonding with a newborn after delivery.

In addition, FMLA may be used by fathers for paternity leave, and for adoptive or foster parents to bond with a child who has been placed in their home.

FMLA is also often used by women who need to take leave for pregnancy related health conditions.

Despite the reason FMLA leave is used, eligible women must be restored to their prior positions (or to equivalent ones) when they return to work.

What does the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) have to do with pregnancy in the workplace?

As far as nursing goes, the Affordable Care Act provides hourly employees with the right to express breastmilk in a private area whenever it is necessary, for up to one year.

The employer is responsible for providing an area other than a restroom. That area must be available at any time a nursing woman might need it.

Strong Advocacy from a New York Employment Pregnancy Discrimination Attorney

If you have been fired or otherwise discriminated against because of your pregnancy, talk to a New York discrimination attorney from Schwartz Perry & Heller LLP right away. We know how to defend your rights under the state and federal laws designed to protect you.

Call Schwartz Perry & Heller LLP at (646) 490-0221 today for more information.

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