The Pregnancy Discrimination Act has a set of laws that help protect people from pregnancy discrimination. Pregnancy discrimination occurs when an employer illegally fires, demotes, or takes some other adverse employment action against an employee or job applicant because of her pregnancy. Despite multiple federal laws that make pregnancy discrimination unlawful, the illegal practice continues to occur in the modern American business world. Fortunately, many different laws make pregnancy discrimination illegal, granting a wide range of protections to pregnant women in the workplace.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act
The headline law that makes pregnancy discrimination illegal is called the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”). The PDA was enacted in response to a Supreme Court decision that held that Title VII, the nation’s primary federal employment anti-discrimination law, did not provide protections to pregnant women under its gender difference provisions. To remedy this situation, Congress passed and enacted the PDA, which explicitly bars any form of employment discrimination because of pregnancy, childbirth, or any related medical procedure.
The Family Medical Leave Act
The Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) is another federal law that can apply to new parents who take time off from work due to a new pregnancy. The FMLA bars an employer from discriminating against an employee because the employee decides to take medical leave either for their own medical procedure (such as a pregnancy) or to care for someone else with a serious medical condition (such as a pregnant spouse). Under the provisions of the FMLA, both parents are entitled to at least some medical leave time incident to a pregnancy if they choose to take that leave time and they otherwise qualify for the FMLA’s protections.
The Americans with Disabilities Act
Another federal law that provides important workplace protections to pregnant women is the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). When most people think about the kind of protections that the ADA provides in the workplace, they think about employees in wheelchairs or those with permanent medical conditions; however, such a view does not fully account for the extent of the ADA’s protections. The ADA requires that an employer provide reasonable workplace accommodations to any employee who is suffering under either a permanent disability or a temporary disability. Under the ADA, a pregnancy counts as a temporary disability. As a result, pregnant women are entitled to reasonable accommodations that would allow them to continue to work while pregnant such as the ability to take special breaks or request specialized equipment or more comfortable desk chairs.
Many State Laws Also Prevent Discrimination on the Basis of Pregnancy
Finally, if for some reason federal employment anti-discrimination law does not protect a pregnant or formerly pregnant employee in a specific situation, it is possible that state law might. Most state employment anti-discrimination laws are designed to fill gaps left by federal law. In many cases, a state law may offer expanded protections to pregnant women that are not currently available under federal law. As it is not practical to overview all state employment anti-discrimination laws relating to pregnancy in this brief article, anyone who believes that they have become a victim of employment discrimination should contact an experienced employment lawyer as soon as possible for advice.