The EEOC and Pregnancy

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The EEOC and Pregnancy

Most people are familiar with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) purpose to end discrimination in the workplace.  "Discrimination" is different and negative treatment based on an employee’s gender, color, race, religion, age, national origin, disability, or sex.  However, many people may not know that EEOC files lawsuits on behalf of employees alleging pregnancy discrimination, under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978.

What Is the Pregnancy Discrimination Act?

According to the PDA, pregnancy discrimination is a form of sex discrimination.  The PDA provides that “no person [shall] reduce the benefits or the compensation provided any employee on the date of enactment of this Act.”  The EEOC will fight employers in court to get pregnant women the lost wages and other special damages they deserve, as well as compensation for pain, suffering, and humiliation.

In a recent lawsuit filed by the EEOC, pregnant women were demoted and their salaries cut.  The women were replaced with younger, male employees, factors that also point to age and gender discrimination.  The pregnant women were accused of being uncommitted to their work, and unable to perform their jobs because of their pregnancies.

The employer defended itself by citing its free child care, a part time work option, twelve weeks of paid maternity leave, and four weeks of unpaid leave.  However, the EEOC takes seriously any situations where the pregnant employees’ careers seem to lose momentum and fall apart soon after the employer learns of the pregnancy.

How Will The EEOC Handle my Pregnancy Discrimination Case?

The EEOC treats pregnancy discrimination like all discrimination cases. The employee must file a complaint with the EEOC at least 180 days after the alleged discriminatory act. Holidays and weekends must be factored in. After that, the EEOC will respond within a few months. The EEOC will either investigate the complaint on its own, give a “right to sue letter,” which allows the employee to sue in federal court, or dismiss the charge.

Is It Discrimination If an Employer Will Not Give a Pregnant Employee Sick Leave and Benefits?

The employer is only required to give pregnant employees the same health benefits and sick leave it gives to other employees. However, the Family and Medical Leave Act requires that employers give unpaid leave to qualified employees.

Is It Discrimination If an Employer Forces A Pregnant Employee To Take Leave?

The employer is required to treat pregnant employees the same as other employees until the pregnant employee is unable to perform her duties. Forcing a pregnant employee to take leave, even if paid, can be discrimination if the employee is still able to do her job. The intent of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act is to give the employee the right to reasonable decide when they should take leave.

Do I Need a Lawyer If My Pregnancy Discrimination Case Involves the EEOC?

Pursuing a pregnancy discrimination claim is complicated because the procedural laws involving the EEOC are very complex. The EEOC will not represent you in court. An experienced employment attorney can help you file the necessary paperwork and represent you in court.

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Last Modified: 01-07-2014 10:16 AM PST

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