In 1978, Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). The PDA states that discrimination based on sex includes pregnancy discrimination. Under the PDA, employers cannot discriminate against any employee or job applicant who is temporarily unable to work due to pregnancy.

What are the Hiring and Working Conditions Required of Pregnant Women?

Employers cannot refuse to hire a woman because she is pregnant or because of her pregnancy-related conditions so long as she can perform the major functions of her job. For instance, if a pregnant woman is interviewing for a job that requires her to lift 100 pounds multiple times a day, and the pregnant woman cannot due to her pregnancy, then the employer would not be found liable for pregnancy discrimination.
Further, employers cannot refuse to hire a woman based on prejudices against pregnant workers. Specifically, employers cannot fire a woman or require her to stop working when her pregnancy becomes evident, or refuse to hire a pregnant woman under the assumption that she would quit work once she has her child.

What are Common Examples of Pregnancy Discrimination?

Below are the most common types of pregnant discrimination examples:

  • An employer refusing to hire a job applicant because she is pregnant
  • Firing, demoting, or refusing to promote a female employer due to her pregnancy
  • Decreasing a pregnant employee’s hours or assignments because she is pregnant
  • Inappropriate comments or conduct regarding the employee’s pregnancy
  • Discipline in response to a request for pregnancy-related medical time-off

Can I Be Fired if My Pregnancy Prevents Me from Doing My Job?

No. Pregnant employees must be treated the same as employees with a temporary disability, and therefore employers cannot terminate a pregnant woman’s employment because she is unable to perform work functions associated with her job due to her pregnancy. On the contrary, employers must reasonably accommodate pregnant women and temporarily disabled employees alike.
It’s important to note that employers may ask for additional information from you. For instance, if your employer requires other employees to submit a doctor’s note concerning her inability to perform various work-functions before the employer allows the employee to take time-off, the employer may also require pregnant employees to provide a doctor’s note as well.

Do Fathers Have Any Rights Under the Act?

Yes. Under the PDA, fathers have the right to take a leave of absence when their wife is pregnant to become her caregiver. Fathers with these caregiving duties cannot be discriminated against, as doing so violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when the discrimination is based on his wife’s pregnancy. Additionally, new fathers can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

What are My Legal Rights if I Experience Pregnancy Discrimination?

If you believe that you have experienced pregnancy discrimination, you may wish to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You need to file a charge within 180 calendar days from the alleged discrimination.

The Commission will investigate your claim, which takes approximately 10 months. If the EEOC isn’t able to determine whether the law was violated, they will send you a Notice of Right to Sue, which gives you the right to file suit in court. If the EEOC determines the law may have been violated, they will try to reach a voluntary settlement with the employer.

Should I Consult an Attorney?

An discrimination lawyer can be extremely valuable in assisting any female employee in pregnancy discrimination issues. The filing of an employment discrimination complaint and gathering of relevant evidence requires an attorney with knowledge of employment law. In addition, a knowledgeable attorney can help to guide employees in any settlement arrangements.