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Pregnancy Discrimination

Many women struggle to have a career and a family simultaneously. Pregnancy discrimination laws are meant to help. Just like race, gender, age, and religion, pregnancy is a protected status in US employment law. Technically, an employer cannot make hiring, firing, or promotion decisions based on whether an employee is pregnant, but since employers have broad discretion in these matters, it can be difficult to prove that an employer's decision was motivated by a particular employee's “familial status.” Proper preparation and education about pregnant employees' rights are essential to creating a welcoming, supportive, and legally compliant workplace for employees with families. Look through the articles in this section for a wealth of useful information.

Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace

Pregnancy discrimination occurs when a female employee or applicant is discriminated against on account of their pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act added protections for the pregnant to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Pursuant to the act 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 should be treated. The employer may need to modify work assignments or tasks, provide disability pay, or unpaid leave. Employers can't 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 when 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 for special procedures to determine their ability to work, but they may use any procedure used to screen other employee'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. Likewise, if the pregnant employee cannot work temporarily the policies and procedures that normally apply to temporarily disabled employees would apply to the pregnant employee.

If a pregnant employee is absent from work for a pregnancy-related condition and recovers before childbirth they can't be prevented from returning and employers may not set a rule prohibiting the return to work within a set period after childbirth. Employers need to hold a position for the same length of time they would hold a position 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. This coverage needn't include expenses for an abortion unless the mother's life is endangered. Pregnancy related benefits cannot be limited to married employees.

Learn About Pregnancy Discrimination