Trouble at work is the last thing you need.
Welcoming a new child should be a joyous event – and you should be able to focus on your new arrival’s many needs without worrying about your job. Employers are required to provide you with certain accommodations, to provide at least 12 weeks of leave, and to return you to work when your maternity leave is over. Your pregnancy cannot be used as a factor in decisions that affect your career, such as hiring & firing, promotions and demotions, or pay. If your employer is refusing to accommodate you, or using your pregnancy against you, we can help.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act
The PDA requires that a covered employer treat women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions in the same manner as other applicants or employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work. The PDA covers all aspects of employment, including firing, hiring, promotions, and fringe benefits (such as leave and health insurance benefits). Pregnant workers are protected from discrimination based on current pregnancy, past pregnancy, and potential pregnancy.
Current pregnancy. Under the PDA, an employer cannot fire, refuse to hire, demote, or take any other adverse action against a woman if pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition was a motivating factor in the adverse employment action. This is true even if the employer believes it is acting in the employee’s best interest.
Past Pregnancy. An employer may not discriminate against an employee or applicant based on a past pregnancy or pregnancy-related medical condition or childbirth. For example, an employer may not fire a woman because of pregnancy during or at the end of her maternity leave.
Potential Pregnancy. An employer may not discriminate based on an employee’s intention or potential to become pregnant. For example, an employer may not exclude a woman from a job involving processing certain chemicals out of concern that exposure would be harmful to a fetus if the employee became pregnant. Concerns about risks to a pregnant employee or her fetus will rarely, if ever, justify sex-specific job restrictions for a woman of childbearing capacity.
Medical Condition Related to Pregnancy or Childbirth. An employer may not discriminate against an employee because of a medical condition related to pregnancy and must treat the employee the same as others who are similar in their ability or inability to work but are not affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. For example, under the PDA, since lactation is a medical condition related to pregnancy, an employer may not discriminate against an employee because of her breastfeeding schedule. (For information about a provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that provides additional protections for breastfeeding employees, see the section on “Other Federal Laws Protecting Pregnant Workers” below.).
Other Laws Affecting Pregnant Workers:
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees of employers with 50 or more employees to take up to 12 workweeks of leave for the birth and care of the employee’s child. Employers also restore the employee to the employee’s original job or to an equivalent job with equivalent pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – Although pregnancy itself is not a disability, pregnant workers may have impairments related to their pregnancies that qualify as disabilities under the ADA, such as pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome, gestational diabetes, pregnancy-related sciatica, and preeclampsia. An employer may not discriminate against an individual whose pregnancy-related impairment is a disability under the ADA and must provide an individual with a reasonable accommodation if needed because of a pregnancy-related disability, unless the accommodation would result in significant difficulty or expense (“undue hardship”).
The Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide “reasonable break time” for hourly employees to express breast milk until the child’s first birthday. Employers are required to provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.” Employers with fewer than 50 employees are not subject to this requirement if it “would impose an undue hardship by causing significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, nature, or structure of the employer’s business.”