Pregnancy Discrimination & Maternity Leave Laws in the Workplace

Both federal and state laws require employers to treat pregnant women fairly. If you’re pregnant, you should be treated the same as all other workers. It’s a simple idea, but in practice pregnancy discrimination occurs very often. If you think it has happened to you, the first step is to understand the anti-discrimination and maternity leave laws that protect your rights on the job.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act

The main federal law protecting pregnant women is an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, called the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). This law sets the rules and regulations regarding an employer’s responsibilities when one of their workers is pregnant, as well as the rights of pregnant workers, and is applicable to companies that have 15 or more employees.

When a pregnant employee’s rights are violated, employers can be held accountable, and may be found liable and required to pay damages or other types of restitution.

Employer Responsibility Under the PDA

Employers have the responsibility to treat pregnant women fairly. This outlaws acts of pregnancy discrimination. Employers may not refuse to hire pregnant workers based on personal views about the inability of pregnant women to perform job duties. They may not pass over qualified pregnant women for a promotion that would otherwise be granted. Nor may they terminate, demote, harass, or refuse to hire someone just for being pregnant.

It is also against the law for employers to refuse to hire a pregnant worker due to a pregnancy-related health condition.

Lastly, the PDA requires employers to provide adequate accommodations to expectant mothers, when reasonable. Employers also may not use pregnancy as a reason to change the health benefits or other job benefits of employees who become pregnant.

Maternity Leave Laws

Another way that pregnancy discrimination can become an issue on the job is via maternity leave.

Employers sometimes make unlawful requirements concerning maternity leave, which pregnant employees can address with litigation. For instance, it is unlawful for an employer to require that a pregnant employee remain on maternity leave until the birth of her child under certain circumstances. Curtailing or extending maternity leave in response to a pregnancy is against the law in most circumstances.

Maternity leave laws dictate that an certain employers must afford a pregnant employee the same type of leave as other “temporarily disabled” employees. For example, i an employer has a policy in place that will hold a job open for workers who are temporarily disabled for a certain length of time, it must also hold the job open for a woman temporarily disabled due to pregnancy for the same length of time.

It is also important to note that pregnant women may be entitled to a certain amount of leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA grants a pregnant woman 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn. Fathers also have the right to take the same amount of unpaid leave time to care for a new baby under the FMLA.

Eligibility for FMLA leave is limited to employees who have been with an employer for at least 12 months, worked over 1250 hours during the last 12 months, and work at a location where there are 50 or more employees with a radius of 75 miles.

What if a Pregnant Employee is Unable to Perform Her Job Duties?

Some pregnancy-related disabilities qualify for protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which for some women offers another avenue to deal with pregnancy discrimination at work. The ADA requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations at work such as shifting work schedules or providing lighter job duties.

Contact Shegerian & Associates to Discuss Your Situation

Employers who willfully or negligently subvert the rights of their pregnant employees may be violating the law. Pregnant workers deserve the same treatment as all other workers, and should not be subject to prejudice within the workplace because of their expectant status.

For assistance with your particular situation, you can rely on the thorough expertise of the employment law attorneys at Shegerian & Associates. Our extensive knowledge of employment law is a valuable asset to employees seeking justice for any pregnancy discrimination cause.

Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your situation and learn more about your legal rights and options under anti-discrimination and maternity leave laws.