Pregnancy discrimination happens when a person is treated unfairly or unequally in the workplace simply due to their pregnancy, recent childbirth, the need to breastfeed, or having a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.
The primary legislation that addresses pregnancy discrimination is the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which mandates that employers treat pregnant employees or those with pregnancy-related medical complications like other employees with temporary disabilities.
What Type of Behavior is Considered Discriminating Against a Pregnant Person?
Both federal and state laws protect pregnant employees from discrimination, as pregnancy is considered one of the “protected categories” under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). This legislation makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against a person based on their pregnancy status.
Pregnancy discrimination laws encompass various aspects of the employment process, such as job offers, terminations, salary, promotions, benefits, vacation days, and severance packages.
Behaviors that may be deemed employer discrimination against a pregnant employee include:
- Denying rightful wages: An employer refuses to provide a pregnant employee with a pay raise or bonus that they are entitled to, based solely on the employee’s pregnancy.
- Penalizing for taking leave: An employer disciplines a pregnant employee for taking legally allowed family or medical leave, such as demoting the employee or reducing their hours upon their return.
- Forcing premature leave: An employer forces a pregnant employee to take medical leave prematurely, even if they can still perform their job duties, without providing a valid reason or medical proof.
- Refusing to hire or terminate: An employer decides not to hire a job candidate solely because they are pregnant or terminate an employee because of their pregnancy, even if the employee can perform their job duties and has a good performance record.
What are Some Other Legal Issues Found in Pregnancy Discrimination Cases?
A crucial aspect of pregnancy discrimination cases is ensuring equal treatment for all pregnant workers, regardless of their pregnancy’s unique circumstances. Employers may need to adjust for each pregnant individual, such as accommodating a more difficult pregnancy with additional time off. Many pregnancy discrimination claims may also involve gender discrimination issues.
Employers should consider the following legal concerns for each pregnancy:
- Determining leave: An employer must determine when an employee should take leave due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, based on state and federal laws, as well as any applicable company policies.
- Temporary replacement: An employer should identify a suitable temporary replacement for a pregnant employee who takes leave and ensure that the temporary employee receives proper training and support to perform the job duties.
- Family and medical leave: An employer must adhere to state and federal guidelines regarding family and medical leave requirements, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain family or medical reasons.
- Access to benefits: An employer must guarantee that pregnant employees have access to pay increases, vacation time, seniority, and other benefits to which they are entitled, regardless of their pregnancy.
- Harassment prevention: An employer should prevent or address any harassment related to pregnancy, childbirth, or associated medical conditions, such as derogatory comments or adverse employment actions against a pregnant employee because of their condition.
If pregnant workers have suffered losses or missed advancement opportunities due to their condition, they may have a pregnancy discrimination claim. They can file a complaint with a government organization (e.g., the EEOC) to resolve the situation. If the EEOC investigation is unsuccessful, they may file a civil lawsuit against the employer for damages.
May I Leave Work Temporarily If I Am Pregnant?
According to the PDA, employers must allow pregnant employees to be considered temporarily disabled or take disability leave without pay due to pregnancy-related complications. Employers should treat pregnant employees like disabled employees without singling out pregnancy-related medical conditions as a reason for denying temporary leave.
Under the FMLA, a new parent (father or mother) may be eligible for 12 weeks of leave following a child’s birth, adoption, or fostering. The leave may be paid or unpaid, depending on the employee’s accrued time off.
To qualify for FMLA leave, you must have worked for the employer for over a year or 12 months before requesting leave, and the employer must have a minimum of 15 employees.
How Do I Ask for FMLA Leave?
If you are eligible for FMLA leave and would like to request it for the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child, here are some steps you can follow:
- Give your employer notice: It’s best to give your employer as much notice as possible before taking leave, preferably at least 30 days in advance if the leave is foreseeable. You should inform your employer of the reason for the leave, the expected start date and duration, and any additional relevant details.
- Request FMLA leave: You should formally request FMLA leave to your employer in writing, using a form or letter that specifies that you are requesting leave under the FMLA. Your employer should provide you with the necessary forms and information, or you can find them on the U.S. Department of Labor website.
- Provide supporting documentation: Your employer may require you to provide supporting documentation, such as medical certification for the birth of a child or adoption/foster care paperwork, to verify the need for leave.
- Follow up with your employer: Stay in communication with your employer throughout the leave period to ensure a smooth transition back to work, and provide any updates or changes to your return-to-work plan.
If you have any questions or concerns, you may want to consult with an employment lawyer or contact the U.S. Department of Labor for guidance.
Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer for Help with Pregnancy Discrimination Claims?
Hiring a discrimination attorney could be very helpful if you think you’ve been discriminated against because of pregnancy. Discrimination lawsuits, like other employment-related claims, usually require the help of a legal professional.
An experienced employment lawyer can explain your rights, guide you through the process, and help you choose the best legal options based on your situation.
LegalMatch can help in several ways if you believe you’ve been discriminated against due to pregnancy and are looking for a discrimination attorney:
- Matching you with the right attorney: LegalMatch’s matching process connects you with experienced attorneys who handle pregnancy discrimination cases. This can save you time and effort, as you don’t have to spend hours searching for an attorney alone.
- Free initial consultations: Many attorneys in LegalMatch’s network offer free initial consultations. This allows you to discuss your case with an attorney and understand how they can help you before deciding whether to hire them.
- Client reviews: LegalMatch provides client reviews and ratings of attorneys in its network. This can help you make an informed decision about which attorney to hire.
- Legal resources: LegalMatch provides legal resources, such as articles and FAQs, to help you understand your legal rights and the discrimination lawsuit process.
Use LegalMatch to help find an experienced discrimination attorney who can provide guidance and representation in your pregnancy discrimination case.