Know your Rights_ The Pregnancy Discrimination Act

Legal Advice

In 1978, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was passed. It made it illegal for discrimination to happen on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth and other similar medical conditions. Despite this Act, pregnant employees still face discrimination from their employers, co-workers and clients.

Between 2010 and 2015 alone, almost 31,000 charges on discrimination during pregnancy at work were filed in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of the US. Despite some progress made – for instance in 2008 that made it mandatory for employees to provide necessary accommodations to pregnant women as part of the Act for Americans for Disabilities – pregnant workers still go through discrimination as a result of their pregnancies and are not getting their right work accommodations they require.

When does pregnancy discrimination apply?

An employee is protected against discrimination if they can prove that they were unjustly treated because of a pregnancy. It is totally up to the employee if they want to talk to their employer or colleagues about a pregnancy. Legally speaking, it is not a must for you to tell your co-workers and employer about your pregnancy until the 15th week before the pregnancy is due, which is the time for taking a maternity leave. Obviously, your co-workers and boss are likely to notice when a pregnancy happens. But once they are aware of your pregnancy, you get protected against discrimination, unfair treatment, and unfair dismissal because you are pregnant.

What does the Act cover?

This act is an adjustment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It makes it unlawful for a pregnant person to be discriminated against on the basis of race, religion, sex, color, age, disability or genetic information. Discriminating a pregnant employee is also a violation of her civil rights, and is subject to investigation. The PDA has certain terms that are vital in describing the kind of protection. It deals with discrimination on the basis of childbirth, pregnancy or other similar conditions. It states that under the Title VII, it constitutes unlawful sex discrimination, which deals with a company having more than 15 employees. A company may not refuse to hire, fire, or discriminate against pregnant women.

Is it legal to fire a pregnant woman?

It is illegal to fire or resign a pregnant employee, nor can an employer restrict a worker from carrying out her work or getting back to work after childbirth. According to the PDA, the law doesn’t only cover present pregnancies; it also deals with future and past pregnancies. This means that for example, an employee cannot fire a worker at the end of her maternity leave, and the company has to accommodate needs such as lactation and breastfeeding for employees that have just given birth.

Can a pregnant woman be turned down for a job?

The short answer is no. It is illegal for a company to refuse to hire you because of a pregnancy. Since employees that are pregnant may have some impairments, the Americans with Disability Act makes it clear that bosses may not discriminate against employees having such impairments, and have to provide adequate accommodations for such workers. The accommodations include modifying policies to suit a pregnant employee.

Getting maternity leave

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act offers protection to the rights of workers if they are on a leave related to pregnancy, or if their pregnancy temporary affects how they perform their job duties. A company cannot make it mandatory for a pregnant worker who is fit to perform her tasks well, to perform other duties if that is not part of their original job description.

Under the PDA, you are permitted to take an unpaid leave of up to 12 weeks. The law also covers other situations such as family or personal medical conditions. When you resume work, you have to be allowed to continue with your past duties, and get the same entitlements and benefits you had previously.

Additional benefits

All workers in all fields of life are protected under the PDA. Companies have to provide the same benefits to pregnant employees as they do to other workers on leave for other issues. For example, a worker that gets injured has to take a short-term leave of disability, knowing that their job will remain secure by the time they return. Companies have to extend the same benefits for pregnant workers taking leaves.

If you experience any discrimination from your employer or co-workers because of your pregnancy, or have not been given the right accommodations for your pregnancy, you can contact an attorney in NY for instructions on how to file for a charge on pregnancy discrimination in NYC.

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