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Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace

Pregnancy discrimination in the workplace involves treating a female applicant or employee unfavorably because of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition. Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, employers may not discriminate against pregnant employees. This applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments, employment agencies, labor organizations and the federal government.

Generally, employers have to provide the same benefits to all employees, whether or not they are pregnant. For instance, when an employer offers various types of employee benefits -- including health insurance, retirement, or disability benefits it must cover pregnancy and related medical conditions the same way other medical conditions are covered.

Similarly, if a woman is temporarily unable to perform her job duties due to a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, the employer must treat her the same way as other temporarily disabled employees. For example, the employer may have to provide modified tasks, alternative assignments, disability leave or unpaid leave.

The following rules demonstrate what employees may or may not do concerning employees who are pregnant, or who may become pregnant.

  • Employers may not refuse to hire, refuse to promote, or fire a pregnant employee because of her pregnancy, because of a pregnancy-related condition, or because of the prejudices of co-workers, clients, or customers.
  • Employers may not ask illegal interview questions of pregnant applicants that they would not ask applicants who are not pregnant.
  • Employers may not require employees to give notice of a pregnancy unless it serves a legitimate business purpose and is not used to restrict the employee's job opportunities.
  • Employers may not discriminate against employees who may get pregnant.
  • Employers may not forbid a pregnant employee from continuing to work if she wants to and is physically capable of doing all tasks associated with the work.
  • Employers must hold open a job for a pregnancy-related absence the same length of time jobs are held open for employees on sick or disability leave.
  • Employees may not discriminate against employees who have had an abortion, or are considering having an abortion.
  • Employers must provide health insurance coverage for pregnancy-related conditions on the same basis as costs for other medical conditions.
  • Employers must reimburse pregnancy-related expenses the same as those incurred for other medical conditions, whether payment is on a fixed basis or a percentage of reasonable-and-customary-charge basis.
  • Employers must provide the same level of health benefits for spouses of male employees as they do for spouses of female employees.
  • Employers must provide the same pregnancy-related benefits to single employees as they do for married employees.
  • Employers must grant pregnant women who are on leave the ability to accrue seniority, vacation, pay increase, and temporary disability benefits in the same way as those who are on leave for other reasons unrelated to pregnancy.
  • Employers cannot demand medical notes from a pregnant employee's doctor concerning her work status if they do not require similar documentation from doctors of other employees who have short-term disabilities.

If you feel you have been discriminated against because of a pregnancy or pregnancy-related medical condition, you should speak with an employer lawyer as soon as possible. A good employment lawyer can help educate you on the federal and state pregnancy discrimination laws and help you recover any losses you may have incurred.

For more information, contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Next Steps
Contact a qualified employment discrimination attorney
to make sure your rights are protected.
(e.g., Chicago, IL or 60611)

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